FROM-THE LIBRARY OF
From the Library of
Given by his Family
SI # . t*S**«~4
Her Life and Work
Her Life and Work
Part I. — Memoir of Mrs. Sumner
By MARY PORTER
Part II.— A Short History of the Mothers' Union
By MARY WOODWARD
Compiled from the manuscript History of the Society written by the
LADY HORATIA ERSKINE
WINCHESTER: WARREN & SON LIMITED
PRINTED BY WARREN AND SON LTD. WINCHESTER
MAP 1 lope;
PART I. MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER.
Foreword by the ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY ix
Author's Preface ... ... ... ... ... ... xi
Chapter I. — HARVEST 1-3
Mrs. Sumner's Funeral.
Chapter II.— HOPE END (1828—1848) 4-10
Early home and childhood — Eliz. Barrett Browning —
Mr. and Mrs. Heywood — Education — Winter in Rome —
Mr. George Sumner — Marriage.
Chapter III.— OLD ALRESFORD (1849—1885) 11-24
Early married life — Motherhood — Life at Old Alresford
Rectory — Meetings for Women and for Men — Mr. Sumner's
preferments — First beginnings of a Mothers' Union — Ports
mouth Church Congress — Mrs. Wilberforce's reminiscence.
Chapter IV. — WINCHESTER — THE FIRST TEN YEARS
Removal to Winchester — Pioneer Work for the M.U. —
The first Diocesan Conference — Fundamental Principles —
Card of Membership — Bishop Sumner's Consecration —
Rapid growth of the M.U. — Mrs. Sumner elected first Central
Chapter V. — OVERSEAS 36-43
Extension of M.U. Overseas — Letters from China and
Madagascar — Messages from other places — Bishop and
Mrs. Sumner's Golden Wedding.
Chapter VI.— AN ENDING (1898—1909) 44-59
Mrs. Sumner's work as Central President, and as Speaker
—Her advice to Speakers— The first Albert Hall Meeting-
Home Life — Illness of Bishop Sumner — Resignation of his
work — Mrs. Sumner resigns the Central Presidentship of
M.U. — The Bishop's death.
Chapter VII.— THE GREAT CAUSE (1910—1916) 60-74
Divorce - t . Commission — Mrs. Sumner's work for the
Sanctity of Marriage, and for Religious Education — A
personal reminiscence— The Cathedral Buttresses — A
Northern Tour — Resignation of Diocesan Presidentship.
Chapter VIII.—" THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMKTH " (1917—
Opening and Dedication of Mary Sumner House —
Mrs. Wilberforce's narrative — The Ministry of Prayer —
" Concerning Grandmothers " — Appeal to Young Mothers —
Mrs. Sumner's 90th Birthday — Mrs. Hubert Barclay's
reminiscence — Mrs. Sumner's last days — Her death.
Chapter IX. — AFTER THE HARVEST ... ... ... ... 94-98
Letters and messages — " After the Harvest."
Appendix I. — MRS. SUMNER'S FUNERAL 100
Appendix II. — MRS. SUMNER'S WRITINGS 102
PART II. A SHORT HISTORY OF THE MOTHERS' UNION.
Introduction by MRS. WILBERFORCE ... ... ... 104
Foreword by LADY HORATIA ERSKINE ... ... ... 105
Chapter I.— 1892— 1910 107-116
The Mothers' Union first organised in Winchester
Diocese, 1886 — First Annual Conference, 1892 — Committee
of Presidents formed, 1893 — Central Council formed, 1896 —
First Central President and Central Secretary — The
" Bracket " Clause — Festival of the Mothers' Union — Queen
Victoria as Patron, 1897 — Magazines started — First Annual
Service in St. Paul's Cathedral, 1900 — Extension Overseas,
1902 — The M.U. and Marriage Laws — Finance Committee —
Work among Nurses, 1906 — Literature Committee, 1906 —
Deputations to South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand
and to U.S.A. — Change of Central Secretary — First London
Mass Meeting, 1908 — Resignation of Mrs. Sumner as Central
President — Death of Bishop Sumner, 1909 — Dowager
Countess of Chichester elected Central President, 1910.
Chapter II.— 1910— 1911 117-126
The new Central President — Letter to the Diocesan
Presidents — Royal Commission on Divorce — Three M.U.
witnesses give evidence, June 1910 — Central Offices and
Staff increased — Revision of M.U. Constitution — Reasons
for Incorporation, 1910 — M.U. and National Purity — Criminal
Law Amendment, Mormon Campaign, etc. — Triennial
Elections, 1911 — Buttress Fund — Welsh Church Disestablish
Chapter III.— 1912— 1916 127-186
Socialist Sunday Schools — Bad Literature — White Slave
Traffic — Watch Committee formed — Overseas Committee —
Result of the Royal Commission on Divorce — Incorporation
of the M.U. — First General Meeting of the " Mothers' Union,
Incorporated " — " Bracket " Clause rescinded — Scottish
Mothers' Union — Missionary Workers in India adopted by
the M.U., 1912— Conference at York— The M.U. and the
Falling Birth-rate — Letter to Archbishops and Bishops, 1913 —
Workers' Paper started — Religious Education Scheme and
Book Supply — Official Handbook prepared — Overseas activi
ties — Madagascar Banner — The M.U. and War conditions,
1914 — Speakers' Committee formed — Pilgrimage of Prayer,
1916 — Resignation of Lady Chichester as Central President,
Chapter IV.— 1916— 1917 137-144
Mrs. Wilberforce elected as Central President — Message
to Women of France — The Mary Sumner House Scheme,
1916 — Postponement of Triennial Elections until conclusion
of War — The M.U. and War-work — Central Correspondent
for Temperance Work appointed — Marriage Defence Com
mittee — Young Wives' Committee — Young Wives' Fellow
ship — Opening of the temporary " Mary Sumner House,"
8, Dean's Yard, Westminster — Its Chapel Services —
Australian Magazine started — Gifts from Overseas Members
for suffering and bereaved mothers in Europe.
Chapter V.— 1918— 1920 145-152
A tribute of sympathy — Naval Division of M.U. members
formed — Organising Workers — A third Missionary Worker
adopted, 1918 — Lady Jenkyns' retirement as Editor of the
M.U. Journal — New Editor appointed — Visit of the Queen
and Princess Mary to the Mary Sumner House — Postponed
Elections take place — Campaign for Deepening Spiritual Life
— New Finance Scheme, 1919 — Mrs. Wilberiorce's resigna
tion as Central President — Her last Council Meeting —
Mrs. Hubert Barclay elected as Central President — Repre
sentation Scheme passed — Second London Mass Meeting —
Conference of Overseas Workers, 1920.
Chapter VI.— 1920— 1921 153-156
The new Central President — First Object of the M.U.
more clearly defined, 1920 — Conference Week at Chester —
Death of Mrs. Sumner— Third London Mass Meeting— The
Mothers' Union to-day.
viii LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
MRS. SUMNER Frontispiece
HOPE END to face page 4
MARY ELIZABETH HEY WOOD, AGED 19 ... „ „ 10
THE WINCHESTER HOME „ „ 26
LADY HORATIA ERSKINE „ „ 106
THE DOWAGER COUNTESS OF CHICHESTER ... „ „ 117
MRS. WlLBERFORCE „ „ 137
MRS. HUBERT BARCLAY ... 158
BY THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
THE Archbishop of Canterbury permits the use, as
Foreword to Mrs. Sumner's Biography, of the
following passage from a letter which he wrote
to Mrs. Gore Browne at the time of her mother's death : —
" What a wonderful life it has been ! Few of those
who realise the work of her later years know or remember
how early she began to have large responsibilities, and a
central position wherein her charm carried so much before
it. How gallantly she has borne a yet greater burden
in the after-years — but with the self-same charm —
everyone knows. Her praise is deservedly ' in all the
Do you remember how Stanley, in describing Moses
on Pisgah, applies the lines about people seldom seeing
the fruit of their labours ?
1 For life did never to one man allow
Time to discover worlds, and conquer, too.'
But life has allowed it to one woman ! It is a
marvellous experience to have first ' discovered ' a new
way of dealing with home problems, and stirring people
thereto ; and then to have lived to see it all come true,
all the world over, under her ripe experience ! "
AUTHOR'S PREFACE TO PART I xi
AUTHOR'S PREFACE TO PART I
T CANNOT let this Memoir go out under my name
without some acknowledgment of the very large
share in it which is due to my fellow-workers in the
Mothers' Union. We have all joined together in con
tributing what each has had to give towards making a
picture of Mrs. Sumner's life and work that shall be true,
so far as it goes. That it should be incomplete is, I fear,
inevitable, especially within the somewhat narrow limits
of this volume. But it has seemed fitting that our
memories of one so widely known and loved and honoured
should be presented in the simplest and least costly form
we could accomplish.
Where so many helpers have contributed to the result
achieved, to give a list of those to whom thanks are due
would be lengthy, and probably incomplete. I have
therefore not attempted it, nor have I given, except on a
few important occasions, the names of the correspondents
who have kindly furnished the various letters of
Mrs. Sumner's from which I am able to quote. In some
cases it was not desired, and, for the most part, it would
have made an interruption without adding to the signifi
cance of the passages given.
xii AUTHOR'S PREFACE TO PART I
One name, however, must have the recognition due
to it in at least equal measure with my own, in the author
ship of this Memoir. It was at the request of Mrs. Gore
Browne that I undertook the task, and without her
constant and close co-operation I could not have carried
it through. That I have done so, even with her help,
very imperfectly, no one can be more fully aware than
I am, for the more closely one looks into the depths which
underlay that life of power and beauty, the clearer grows
the consciousness of inadequacy in portrayal. But the
stronger, also, grows one's faith in the power of the
Holy Spirit to make use, if He will, even of this brief
record of Mary Sumner's life and work, for the purpose
of kindling in other hearts fresh confidence in the Lord
she loved, and a more burning zeal for His service.
That such may be His gracious work is the prayer
with which this book goes forth.
All Saints' Day, 1921.
MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
" In the pleasant orchard closes,
' God bless all our gains ' say we ;
But, * May God bless all our losses '
Better suits with our degree."
(" The Lost Bmcer.")
15th of August, 1921, witnessed a gathering in
A Winchester Cathedral most truly to be described
as a Harvest Thanksgiving. The whole of that
vast church — chancel, nave and aisles — was filled to over
flowing, chiefly with women, old and young, rich and
poor, who had come from far and near to thank God for
the rich harvest of a long life in which the sunshine of
His love had been allowed to do its fruitful work.
Thankfulness ; that was the keynote of Mrs. Summer's
funeral, even in hearts aching with the pain of personal
loss. Her place was left very empty in the home from
which her coffin was borne, as the field is empty whence
the golden corn has all been carried. But the bareness
of the reaped furrow does not silence the joy of harvest,
and neither can the desolation of heart and home quench
the thanksgiving of those who look forward as well as
back, to the Lord of the Harvest's own in-gathering of
the ripened sheaves.
Those sheaves were symbolised at the service in
Winchester Cathedral on that sunny August afternoon.
The 4000 and more women assembled there were repre
sentative of the whole 400,000 members of the Mothers'
Union in all parts of the world, and as the funeral
procession passed through their midst, the words that
2 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
rose to many a mind were : " Behold, I and the children
whom Thou hast given me."
It was as the Mother, far more than only as the Founder
of the Mothers' Union that its members thanked God
for her life, and for her work, and, above all — as one
of them wrote — for " that great big mother-heart which
seemed to enfold us all, and to take to itself all our joys
and sorrows, as if they were her own."
It was as a Mother that the members of her world
wide Union did indeed " rise up and call her blessed "
on that golden day of harvest; but it was as a leader
also that she was honoured by the leaders of the Church
she had served with so full a consecration of her powers.
The two buttresses of the Cathedral which bear her name
and her husband's fitly commemorate the support and
strength given to the life of the Church in the Nation,
by countless efforts and sacrifices freely given and
wisely planned through long years of unstinted service
to God and man.
If we would enter fully into the joy of harvest,
we must know something of what has gone before; of
the sowing as well as the reaping, of the toil and
patience, and the trustful waiting upon God, which have
all had their part in preparing for the glory of the gathered
sheaves. Each different harvest has its own preparation.
For some the buffeting of storms would seem to be need
ful, or long watering with bitter tears, whilst others attain
their full fruition in the peace of glowing sunshine.
Such was the harvest of Mary Sumner's life. If I
had to give in a single phrase the secret of its fruitfulness,
I think I should choose the two words, sunshine and
service. Her 92 years were exceptionally rich in sunshine,
and she took it as God's gift, and used it to the full. Or
rather, I think it would be truer to say that she suffered
Him to use it, in her and through her, for the fulfilment
of His will ; not hindering its transforming, ripening work
by self-cast shadows, nor seeking merely the pleasure
of basking in its glow. The sorrows which the passing
of the years must always bring came to her gently, and
in due course. No anguish of bitter suffering or untimely
loss darkened the heaven above her, or shook the founda
tions of her faith. Personal beauty and gifts were hers
in rich abundance; love, friendship and appreciation
surrounded her from her first days to her last. God did
indeed give her " all things richly to enjoy," not for her
own sake only, but for the work He had prepared for her
to accomplish in His Name.
Looking back upon that work, in the golden light of
harvest, we can see how essential to its fulfilment were the
confidence and serenity, the tact and courage and all
the personal charm called forth in such abundant measure
by the sheltered happiness of her girlhood's days, the
deeper joys of wedded love and motherhood, the wide
circle of friends, and all the varied interests and opportuni
ties that enriched her life. She had only three real
homes in all its course; Hope End, her childhood's
paradise of delight and dreams, from which she went
forth in the summer brightness of her bridal day; the
Hampshire Rectory where her own children grew up,
and whence they in their turn passed on to homes of
their own; and the old house at Winchester, where the
Mothers' Union — her " youngest child " as her husband
called it — passed through the first stages of the rapid
growth which fitted it to go out from the Cathedral Close
" into all the world."
With these three homes are linked three distinct
stages in the development of Mary Sumner's life and work.
" Green the land is, where my daily
Steps in jocund childhood played,
Dimpled close with hill and valley,
Dappled very close with shade:
Summer snow of apple-blossoms running up from glade to glade.
" Far out, kindled by each other,
Shining hills on hills arise,
Close as brother leans to brother
When they press beneath the eyes
Of some father praying blessings from the gifts of paradise.
" While beyond, above them mounted,
And above their woods also,
Malvern hills, for mountains counted
Not unduly, loom a-row —
Keepers of Piers Plowman's visions through the sunshine and the snow.
stanzas are from Mrs. Browning's poem, " The
A Lost Bower," in which she has enshrined the memory
of that beautiful home which was for her, as
afterwards for Mrs. Sumner, the paradise of childhood's
years. Hope End would seem to be one of those places
which take hold of the hearts of all who live in them;
the reason, in this case, being the rich variety of its many
charms. Upland slopes and wooded glades, open park,
walled gardens, and shady lawns, all were to be found
at Hope End, with wonderful views here and there,
where the ground was high, across Herefordshire to the
far Welsh Hills, in one direction, and, in another, to
the nearer Malvern range.
In this home of many beauties Elizabeth Barrett
spent her girlhood, and wrote her earliest poems, and
HOPE END 5
from it she departed with bitter grief in her 28th year,
when her father was forced, through loss of fortune,
to sell the estate. He found a ready purchaser in
Mr. Hey wood, Mrs. Sumner's father, who had fallen in
love with the place on a visit paid to it once when he was
staying at Malvern.
The move to Hope End was made in 1833 from
Swinton, near Manchester, where Mr. Hey wood and his
wife were then living, and where their three children
had been born. Mary Elizabeth, the youngest of the
three, was then in her fifth year, and as time went on
there gradually grew up in her childish mind a strangely
vivid sense of sympathy with her predecessor in this
delightful new home, who shared her fondness for it,
and also one of her own names. The remembrance was
fresh in her mind sixty years later, when she wrote down
some memories of her young days, from which I am
allowed to quote : —
" I was four years old when we went to Hope End ;
the baby of the family, and a much-indulged person —
though I never remember disobeying my parents. Such
a course seemed to be made impossible by the high
standard of conduct they always set us, and their example
of high principle as regards obedience, truth and honour.
" My first recollection of the new home which became
so unspeakably dear to us all was the account given by
some of the old servants, of Elizabeth Barrett's agony
of grief and her bitter tears, in driving away from Hope
End. I felt so sorry for her, and I guarded, with a sort
of loyal sympathy, her favourite flowers in her little
garden up by the large walled kitchen garden, and thought
how too happy I was to live in such a lovely home while
she was pining somewhere far away."
In this beautiful home Mary Heywood passed a
girlhood that was not only very happy, but was also
6 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
characterised by an amount of freedom, and a wealth
of varied opportunities, which a girl even of the present
age might well envy her. It is perhap^ rather whole
some for us, in these days which claim to have left the
poor old past so far behind, to realise how wide a life
and training could be opened to a girl, nearly a century
ago, by parents who spent themselves, as well as their
means, freely upon their children's upbringing.
Mr. Heywood was a man of wide culture, a great
reader and a scholarly writer, and " as children we were
taught a great deal by him," Mrs. Sumner's notes tell us.
" . . . . And if we drove or walked with him, he used
to tell us long historical stories so graphically that I felt
as if I had assisted personally at the battles of Crecy and
Agincourt, talked to the Black Prince, and seen the
Duke of Wellington at Waterloo
" . . . . My father and mother both took immense
pains in our education. We had foreign governesses,
and went abroad constantly, in days when travelling
could only be accomplished slowly, and with long weary
days of posting."
Those lengthy drives Mrs. Sumner owned that she
found " very dull work," with the " dust, heat, monotony,
and the perpetual jingling of the horses' bells."
" Oh, I did feel tired and dreadfully bored ! " she
frankly admitted; whereat one wonders the less on
reading that she was only seven years old when the first
of these journeys abroad took place. And a good deal
would seem to have been expected of her, too !
" My father wished us each to write a journal, and I
can recall my first journal-book, with the big round-hand
recording with difficulty and exceeding dulness small
details of no interest."
One winter was spent in France, and one in Germany,
and then tlje education of the two sjsters was carrieo)
HOPE END 7
on at home, and the boy went off to school, " much to
my grief," Mrs. Sumner wrote, " for he and I were such
" We had each of us our ponies at Hope End, and our
joy was to gallop about the park together, leaping ditches
and flying over fences, often without saddles. Tom
taught me to ride, and considered me his pupil. My
father's hair stood somewhat on end one day at the
wild career over hedge and ditch which my brother led
me, ending with the triumphant announcement to my
father, when we drew rein : ' That is how I teach girls ! '
" Tom was a first-rate rider from his boyhood, and
knew no fear, so I was bound to try and follow suit on
my pony ' Strawberry.' He and I used also to row about
together on the lake below the house in a sort of a tub,
which we called the ' Happy-go-lucky.' "
The close bond of comradeship with this beloved
only brother was never loosened. " Tom's " daughter,
Mrs. Cart wright, cherishes the memory of days long
after, when brother and sister loved to meet again in
the old home, and their laughter would ring out as merrily
as though they were still boy and girl together, as they
called up the memories of past adventures and exploits.
All through Mrs. Sumner 's recollections of her childish
days there runs the golden thread of her mother's
influence, to which she loved to say that she owed so
much more than could be told in words.
" Concerning my dear mother I feel it more difficult
to write. She was the ' Angel in the house ' to us all ....
She gave herself up in heart and life to the service of
Jesus Christ, and her teaching and example made a lasting
impression upon her husband and children. She lived
to hear, long years afterwards, the whispered words of
her husband as he was dying : ' We shall soon meet again ;
8 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
you brought me to know and love my Saviour. It is
all your doing that I die in peace.' '
A phrase which Mrs. Sumner uses about her mother
is strikingly appropriate to herself : " There was no
parenthesis in her religion. It moulded her whole tone of
thought and manner of life."
So also are the words that follow: —
" I do not think there ever was a more entirely lovable
or fascinating personality. It is certain that she had the
power of winning people of all sorts and kinds, rich and
poor, by her tender sympathy, her charm of manner,
her cleverness and humour, and her quick appreciation
of all that was good and interesting in those who
Daily Bible-reading with this beloved mother, in the
early morning, was one of Mrs. Sumner's earliest and
most constant recollections, and " what a debt of gratitude
we owe her for this ! It has helped us through life,
for what is learnt in childhood is never forgotten."
The last words strike a familiar echo in the memory
of every one who has heard the Foundress of the Mothers'
Union speak of its chief work, the training of children in
the knowledge and love of God. The paramount import
ance of early training — above all, of a mother's training —
was, to the end, the thought of all others which she strove
to impress upon all who would join with her in the great
work for which the first foundations were laid in those
quiet morning half-hours spent with her own mother
in learning to know and love God.
So the sunny days of childhood passed by, and the
dawn of womanhood found Mary Heywood one of the
brightest, happiest, and — if one may add it — most sought-
after girls who have ever tasted of life's keenest joys.
A portrait of her, at about this time, shows something of
HOPE END 9
her dark-haired, brilliant beauty, but it can only faintly
suggest the vitality and the radiant joyousness which those
who knew her best would always dwell upon as her chief
characteristics. She is fond of insisting, in her reminis
cences, upon her sister's superior beauty, but not all her
depreciation of her own attractions can quite disguise
the sunshine of love and admiration which then, as in
later years, followed her wherever she went. The manu
script stops short very soon after her 18th birthday, giving
just one glimpse of her " coming-out " winter in Rome,
where she went to her first ball on New Year's Day, 1847.
" It was then that my future husband first saw me
(Mr. George Sumner), but we were not introduced to one
another. A few days later we met at the house of his
cousin, Mrs. Wilson, the daughter of Archbishop Sumner.
She told him he would meet the two Miss Hey woods, but
that he must not fall in love with either, because one was
engaged to her cousin, Percival Heywood, and the second
was too young to think of being married — in fact, that
her parents would not hear of such a thing. This caution
was singularly disregarded as time went on."
Full of enjoyment are the memories of that winter,
which was " delightfully spent in lionising Rome, in
having Italian and singing lessons, and seeing a great
deal of society." Only Sundays were " always quiet
days, and we went to Church regularly twice in the day,
at the English Church."
" We had only been a short time in Rome when
Percival Heywood arrived to claim his beautiful fiancee —
our Maggie— and he spent the rest of the winter with us.
She was immensely admired, and was considered the
belle of Rome that winter, but her heart and time were
given to Percival, and no one else was allowed to approach
her. I suppose it was different with her less beautiful
sister, and I had a variety of kind friends who made a
10 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
good deal of me, so that I ran the risk of being utterly
" But the favoured one " — the recollections of those
gay days end demurely — " was Mr. Sumner."
George Sumner was 22 at that time, enjoying a winter
of foreign travel between the close of his University
career and the beginning of his ministry. The portraits
of him in those youthful days are made very attractive
by his good looks, and also by a certain candid sweetness
of expression characteristic of him all his life. It is not
hard to fancy the joyous picture of youth and beauty and
brilliant promise which he and the eighteen-year-old
Mary Heywood must have made together in the happy
holiday time in Rome, when both stood on the threshold
of life's deepest meaning.
He was the youngest son of Bishop Charles Sumner,
at that time Bishop of Winchester, and was ordained
deacon in 1847, and priest in the following year. A few
months later he married Mary Elizabeth Heywood, on
the 26th of July, 1848.
It was a wedding as ideal as were the 61 years of
married life that followed it. The summer sun shed its
radiance upon the happy young bride and bridegroom,
and the love of God hallowed their hearts and lives and
glori fied their love. No thought of the great work awaiting
her was in Mary Sumner 's mind as she left her childhood's
home with the husband of her choice; yet one stage in
her preparation for it had been accomplished during
those early years which closed with the dawn of her
wedding day f
Mary Elizabeth Heywood, aged 19
" To all who live with us beneath our roof
Grant richest blessing and a constant proof
That Thou art with us, as we dwell in love,
A faint reflection of the Home above."
(M. E. Sumner.)
AT the time of his marriage, George Sumner was a
curate (under Archdeacon Jacob) in the diocese of his
father, the Bishop of Winchester, and in the same
year he was appointed chaplain to his uncle, Archbishop
Sumner (translated from Chester to Canterbury in 1848).
The Sumner family had for several generations rendered
distinguished service to the Church, and was linked by
marriage with the Wilberforces ; so that the young curate
started with high traditions, as well as with the earnest
purpose of living up to them.
In this he had, from the first, his young wife's full
support. The same joyous zest that she had shown over
her childish sports, and later in her girlhood's pleasures,
now found its outlet in the work and life which she shared
with her husband to the utmost of her power. At the
end of their first year of married life Mr. Sumner's mother
died, and he gave up his curacy in order to go to his
father as chaplain, and cheer his loneliness. The young
couple took up their abode at Farnham Castle when
their first baby was only a few weeks old, and lived there
for two years. So that it was not until three years after
their marriage that they made the first of their two real
homes together, in the Hampshire village of Old
12 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
to which parish the Bishop appointed his son as rector
in 1851. Here their youngest child was born, and all
their three children grew up from babyhood, and here
Mrs. Sumner's own beloved mother came to live, after the
death of her husband in 1866, and died after four peaceful
years made happy by the love of her children and grand
It is interesting to learn from Mrs. Sumner herself
how the foundations of the future Mothers' Union were
being gradually developed through each successive stage
in her own experience of motherhood. She makes this
clear in some further fragmentary reminiscences.
" It has always seemed to me that the first thought
about the Mothers' Union dawned upon me in the early
years of my happy married life, when our eldest child
was born. I shall never forget the awful sense of res
ponsibility which seemed to overwhelm me as I took
her in my arms, and realised that God had given an
immortal soul into our keeping.
"As I gazed with rapture at my little baby, it struck
me how much I needed special teaching for so great a
work as the character-training of a child, and how little
I knew about it. I felt that mothers had one of the
greatest and most important professions in the world,
and yet there was no profession which had so poor a
training for its supreme duties. . . .
" The importance of a national effort to awaken the
conscience of mothers to their responsibility and power,
as character trainers t forced itself upon me more and
more as time went on, and two more children were added
to our home-circle, and my thoughts on the responsi
bility of motherhood grew and deepened. The years
between 1849 and 1870 were spent in the practical training
OLD ALRESFORD 13
of our children, during which time I had no leisure for
work outside our home and parish.
" My own happy married life led me to realise that
the foundation of a home is c Holy Marriage,' in which
husband and wife are one in mutual love and faith in
God, in agreement as to Home Rule, and in the training
of children. It led to the 4 First Object ' of the Mothers'
" I could not help observing the influence exercised
in our home, and over our children, by my husband's
consistent high standard as regards religion. His character
of peace and love was a constant support and help to me,
and our mutual love, crowned with the love of God,
created an atmosphere of mental sunshine in daily life."
That atmosphere of sunshine seems to have been the
feature which struck every one who know Old Alresford
Rectory in those days. Mrs. Gore-Browne* writes of it : —
" Old Alresford Rectory was certainly a very cheery
place, for no grumbling was ever allowed. My mother
would not permit it. She said it was like the east wind
in a house. I never remember hearing her grumble about
anything, in the whole course of my life. Even in all
the weakness and limitations of her old age, she never
complained, but always said God allowed them for her
4 training.' '
In one of the addresses she gave in later years, Mrs.
Sumner told how she used to keep herself reminded,
when she was a young mother, of the motto she was
fond of urging all mothers to adopt : " Be yourself what
you would have your child to be."
" I wrote it on a card, and hung it up beside my
toilet table, so that I might be continually reminded of
* Second daughter of Bishop and Mrs. Sumner; married, in
1882, to the Rev. (afterwards Canon) Harrington Gore-Browne,
second son of Bishop and Mrs. Harold Browne, who died in 1914.
14 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
its importance. I realised that a mother must be always
training herself, if she would train her children."
So many of the thoughts which Mrs. Sumner embodied
in her later writings and addresses had their origin in
her own early experience, that a few of them may be
fitly given here, to express the spirit in which she herself
sought to meet the problems and responsibilities of
motherhood. At the heart of it all lay a deep sense
of reverence for God's part in the children whom He
had given, and this she longed to share with every
" I would urge every young mother to reverence her
child," she wrote; and she was continually emphasizing
the danger of " despising " one of Christ's little ones,
and the harm so lightly wrought thereby, by careless
kindness as well as by neglect. One of the most
characteristic features in her teaching about motherhood
— and by no means the least important — was her insistence
upon the fact that to treat a baby merely as a pet or
plaything, is, in effect, to " despise," by ignoring, that
which is divine in it.
" I wish to awaken the attention of mothers to the fact
that even although infants may be much valued, devotedly
loved and cared for, and tenderly nursed, they are, in truth,
being more or less despised when they excite no feelings of
reverence, no respect ....
" .... A little imant comes bright from God's presence,
radiant with the light of heaven, His latest revelation of Himself
to our care-hardened lives. Do we seek to retain the glory
and beauty which a child reveals ? Are we nursing the divine
germ for fuller development, and taking heed lest in word or
deed we offend one of these little ones ? . . . .
" . . . . We must train our children in the dawn of life ;
these first years are so unspeakably precious, and the father
and mother form the atmosphere of the home; they make
or mar the character of their children. Every life, you may
OLD ALRESFORD 15
say, in the land is more or less formed inside a home, either
for blessing or the contrary.
" . . . . The gradual unfolding of a child's mind is pro
foundly interesting; you have to secure his heart and his
imagination. It has been said that ' to fill the mind with
beautiful images is the best thing that can be done to educate
little children,' and what in the world is so beautiful to a child
as the Personality of our Lord Jesus Christ, and His infinite
love for children ? They are placed in His arms in Baptism,
and He marks them as His own. They are made ' members
of Christ . . . .' Body and soul they are consecrated to Him,
to be His faithful soldiers and servants to their lives' end.
" Little children are born with a religious instinct ; they
value sympathy, and the tender love and protecting care of
the Lord Jesus brings joy into their lives, and allays sorrow
and fear. A boy of four years old told me that when he was
frightened in the dark, he asked our Lord to come close to
him, and take care of him, ' and then,' said he, ' I wasn't
afraid any more.' "
These were no purely imaginary counsels, but the
simple gathering up of Mrs. Sumner's own experience.
Her own children carried into later life the strong im
pression left on their minds by their mother's earliest
teaching to them about their Baptism, and all that it
meant to them, however young and helpless they might
be. She made them realise that they were indeed little
soldiers and servants of the unseen Lord Whom they
knew to be so living and so dear to her. That knowledge
was what brought it home to them, writes a niece who
used to stay at the Rectory when she was a little child : —
" I think even then I realised how real was her religious
belief, and how near she lived to the Lord she loved. She
knew just how to speak to a child, as well to a grown person,
with all her heart and interest going out to each one. She
won the confidence of us all, and we all loved her.
" She was so beautiful, too ; so full of gentle dignity, and
of joyousness as well. She always seemed to me a fairy aunt.
16 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
with her quick movements, and her infectious, ringing laughter,
and her wonderful tenderness to a child ....
" . . . . Looking back across the years, I think one of the
things that has always struck me most about Aunt Mary
was her rich youthfulncss of outlook. It seemed to express
what so many religious people lack — the joyousness of being
a follower of Christ."
THE WIDENING CIRCLE.
It is striking to find how this note of joyousness
characterises the recollections of all who knew the home
life at Old Alresford Rectory during all those thirty-four
years. As the children grew up, the circle of interest and
work and social life widened ; the Rector was called upon
increasingly for Diocesan work, and his wife was able to
give more and more valuable help in the care of the
parish, aided by her daughters as the years went on.
The Rectory was a large Georgian house, with the
dignified, ample rooms of its period, and hospitable doors
which seemed to stand always open. Young and old,
rich and poor, parishioners, neighbours, friends from
further afield, gathered there with happy confidence in
a welcome that never failed. Classes, meetings, practices
for the Church choir and for a Choral Society, charades
and social entertainments of many kinds, all found place
in the Rectory life, and the personality of its mistress
was a foremost factor of success in each.
So also were her musical gifts and her voice, a high
soprano of unusual quality, powerful, flexible and very
sweet. It was beautifully trained, too, by a famous
master whose method Mrs. Sumner used successfully in
teaching her own daughters. She trained the Church choir
also, and acted as organist, which she enjoyed, for she
was a musician through and through. That was what
gave her singing one of its greatest charms; it was so
OLD ALRESFORD 17
entirely a matter of delight and not of effort to her. She
sang as a bird sings, her hearers used to say, for the sheer
joy of it. It was a great gift, this that God had given
her, and she used it greatly in His service ; in later days
by speaking, as in those earlier years by song.
When one tries to reckon up all the activities that
filled her days, it is easy to assume that Mrs. Sumner
rejoiced in unbroken health and strength, yet as a matter
of fact she had her share of illnesses. Possibly the small
place which they seem to have occupied in her life is due
to the fact that she took them as simply as she took her
joys, without ever adding the burden of self-pity to the
ills she had to bear. Neither did she inflict upon herself
or others the poisonous misery of unkind thoughts ; and
we are learning more and more to realise how much this
means in health of mind and body.
"Dulness and gloom could not live near her," as
Mrs. Wilberforce wrote, "and because she drew her
inspiration from so deep a well, her joie de vivre never
left her . . . Few who met her could ever forget the
flash of her eyes, or the ring of her merry laugh."
I think it was a daughter of Archbishop Trench (one
of the Sumners' oldest and closest friends at Old Alresford)
who remarked on the fact tliat during the course of quite
a long visit at the Rectory she had heard not a single
unkind word said of any person ; and this sunny atmos
phere of peace and goodwill seemed to follow Mr. and
Mrs. Sumner wherever they went. At every house in
the neighbourhood they were among the most welcome
guests, and thoroughly did they enjoy the society of their
That power of enjoyment was a gift which Mrs. Sumner
never lost. She entered to the fullest extent into the
delights of all their holidays, and most of all into those
which had any spice of adventure in them. The self-same
18 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
spirit that had sent her galloping after her brother over
hedges and ditches at Hope End enabled her to enter,
with all the zest of those childish days, into the joys of
travelling, without regard for its inconveniences. This
was especially remarked by her fellow-travellers on a
memorable holiday in the Holy Land.* No one was
more deeply impressed than Mr-. Sumner by the wonderful
places they visited, nor did anybody find such keen
delight as she did in the long days of travelling on horse
back, and the nights they passed in tents. No petty
discomforts or contretemps could spoil her pleasure, and
she owned to finding it quite an effort to return to the
humdrum routine of ordinary life again.
In Mrs. Sumner 's later years, when she was the leading
speaker for the Mothers' Union, she would often seek to
encourage beginners by recalling her own experience of
the first meeting of women she undertook to address. It
was at the Rectory, and the women invited were only
some thirty or forty in number, and all well known to
her. But when word was brought to her that they were
assembled, her nerve failed her and she broke down so
completely that she had to beg her husband to go in her
stead to speak to them, and to send them away. But
she resolved that it should never happen again, and she
asked them to come again the following week, and forced
herself to face the dreaded ordeal in reliance upon the
Holy Spirit's power. After that, she used to say, although
she had frequently to fight against nervousness, it never
Her meetings for women became a weekly event, so
much enjoyed by all concerned that a request was presently
* Described in Mrs. Sumner's book, Our Holiday in the East.
OLD ALRESFORD 19
put forward that she should hold a meeting for men also,
about which her notes tell us:-
" My husband cordially approved of the idea, and
was delighted to arrange one for me every Sunday evening
at 7 o'clock, while he took the Service at Arms worth, a
district in a distant part of the parish. The men's meeting
was a most delightful gathering of about thirty-five, who
came regularly up to the Rectory every Sunday evening,
and entered heartily into the Bible reading, and the
suggested religious and home duties which I especially
brought before them."
There is something characteristic in the courage with
which Mrs. Sumner pushed her suggestions right home
to the practical details that mean so much, and are so
" I ventured on one occasion to speak to the men
about their married lives, and I told them, with a smile,
that they doubtless said many pretty things to their wives
before they were married, and they ought to show love
and courtesy to them afterwards.
" I urged each of them to give a little present to his
wife on her birthday. The hint was taken, and the wife
of one of them, when next I called on her, told me that
her husband had bought her a lovely shawl, and on her
birthday he put it round her shoulders and gave her his
good wishes with a kiss. She said, ' I couldn't help
crying for joy, because he had never done such a thing or
spoken so lovingly to me since we were married.' '
The sentence with which Mrs. Sumner concludes her
memories of this men's meeting is characteristic of her
attitude towards all her enterprises, great or small: —
" Although at first I was intensely alarmed at taking
such a meeting of men, I soon found it a real pleasure.
They were so kind, grateful, and responsive."
20 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
It was in 1876 that Mrs. Sumner first gave practical
effect to her long-cherished idea of a Union of Mothers
in prayer for their homes. She worked out a very simple
card of practical suggestions, headed with the reminder
which she had been wont to impress upon herself from
her earliest days of motherhood :
" Remember that your children are given up, body and
soul, to Jesus Christ in Holy Baptism, and that your duty
is to train them for His service."
A few simple counsels to mothers followed, and then
an appeal to seek in the Holy Communion the strength
needful for putting them into practice, and after this
the prayer now known to members of the Mothers' Union
throughout the world. The card was used by some of
Mrs. Sumner 's own friends, as well as by the members
of her women's meeting, but " I had no idea," she wrote
*' how I could make it more widely known, unless some
good opportunity was vouchsafed to me."
The opportunity did not come for nine years, during
which the time at Old Alresford was drawing to its close.
Those years saw the departure from the Rectory of the
son and two daughters, one after another, to their own
married homes,* and together with this narrowing of the
home-circle a continued increase of Diocesan work and
duties came to Canon Sumner. He had been made
Honorary Canon of Winchester in 1873, and in 1885 he
became Archdeacon. Soon after his appointment to
this Office a residentiary Canonry fell vacant, and was
conferred upon him, together with a house in the Cathedral
Close, and the thirty-two years of life and work at Old
Alresford came to an end.
* The elder daughter was married, in 1871, to Mr. A. P. Heywopd,
eldest son of Sir Percival Hey wood, Bart., of Dove Leys, Staffordshire.
The second daughter married in 1882 (see p. 13), and in 1888 Mr.
Heywood Sumner, the only son, married Miss Agnes Benson, younger
daughter of Mr. Wm. Benson, of Langtons, Alresford.
OLD ALRESFORD 21
So also did Mrs. Sumner's many years of prayer and
waiting to see what future God had in store for the Mothers'
Union of her dreams. There is a striking significance in
the fact that the opportunity of launching it, which had
been so long in coming, should present itself just at the
time when the old home was being given up, and the
special work and duties belonging to it were at an end.
It was during the autumn of that year, in the midst
of the preparations for their move, that Archdeacon and
Mrs. Sumner went together to the Portsmouth Church
Congress, which was to be the means of bringing the
Mothers' Union into existence. Of so memorable an
occasion one seeks a personal account, and we owe the
following reminiscence to Mrs. Wilberforce,* who can
write of it better than anybody else. Not only was
she present at the time, and closely concerned in the
incident from which so much followed, but she also knew
Mrs. Sumner, on terms of closest friendship, from earlier
days right on to the end.
I count it, therefore, a very great gain to have
Mrs. Wilberforce as narrator both for the first and for
the last of the many public occasions belonging to Mrs.
Sumner's work as Foundress of the Mothers' Union.
THE PORTSMOUTH CHURCH CONGRESS.
Mrs. Wilberlorce's Narrative.
'Although the scene remains vividly before my eyes,
it is difficult, after the lapse of so many years, to describe
in words the details of the historic occasion when the
Mothers' Union was called into being by the words of
its beloved Foundress.
* Mrs. Wilberforce is known to all members of the Mothers'
Union, by name if not in person. She was Diocesan President for
London, 1908—1915, and Central President 1915—1920.
22 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
* In 1885 the Church Congress was held at Portsmouth,
under the presidency of Bishop Harold Browne (of
Winchester), and one of the items in the week's programme
was a Mass Meeting for Women, to be held in the largest
hall that existed in the great, densely-populated seaport
'My husband (then Bishop of Newcastle) had been
asked to preside at this particular meeting, and as we
came into the Hall, which was packed to overflowing, the
sight which met us moved him profoundly. On all
sides there were rows upon rows of women, many of
them with sad, anxious faces, or bearing some unmistak
able sign of poverty's cold grip, and he felt that a woman
could probably speak to them with a greater power of
sympathetic understanding than even the best of the
appointed speakers, who were all men.
'That seemed the natural arrangement for such an
occasion forty years ago. Women had not yet taken
up the work of public speaking, and it was a sudden and
quite unusual resolve that the Bishop took — in the truest
sense, as I believe, an " inspiration of the moment " —
when he went straight to Mrs. Sumner, our friend of
many years' standing, and asked her to speak. She held
up her hands in horror at the idea of such a thing, and
her refusal was prompt and emphatic.
' Nothing daunted, he still pleadingly insisted, and
upon her protesting that her husband would particularly
dislike her speaking in public, the Bishop undertook to
make it all right with him.
* Finally, placing his hands on Mrs. Sumner's shoulders,
my husband gave her his blessing, and said that for that
occasion he was her Bishop, and therefore able to lay
his commands upon her. Her hesitation was all put behind
her then, and she set herself to obey the call quite simply,
OLD ALRESFORD 28
although " with a trembling heart," as she herself wrote
' After this touching little incident we proceeded to the
platform, Mrs. Sumner sitting behind the Chairman, who
called upon her before the meeting closed. He told the
audience that a woman who cared for them, and wanted
to help them in the trials and difficulties of daily life,
would now speak to them. She came forward, and spoke
for a few minutes with all the charm and earnestness that
thereafter characterised all her utterances, while we who
listened to her felt that the Holy Spirit was manifestly
guiding and strengthening her, in an undertaking which
at that time called for no little courage.
' The following fragmentary notes of her address, which
have survived, may serve, imperfect as they are, to give
an idea of at any rate a part of the message that she gave
upon this great occasion : —
" My friends, as wives and mothers we have a great work
to do for our husbands, our children, our homes and our country,
and I am convinced that it would greatly help us if we could
start a Mothers' Union, wherein all classes could unite in faith
and prayer, to try to do this work for God.
" With His help and inspiration we can conquer all
difficulties, and raise the Home-life of our Nation. Union is
strength. United prayer gives miraculous strength, and mothers
can be made powerful and successful in their sacred duties
by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
" Let us help one another to come to Him ; to lay all our
cares before Him, and to look up into His loving Face. He
will not send us empty away ; He will most surely strengthen,
help and comfort us in our Home-life here, and fit us to meet
together, when our work is done, in His own Presence, before
the Throne of God."
' That same evening, at a social gathering, when thanking
my husband for making her speak, Mrs. Sumner spoke
24 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
to us very earnestly of her great wish to band mothers
together into a true Union of prayer and Christian fellow
ship, and I remember her using the expression, " L'union
fait la force." Next day a few of us met together, Mrs.
Harold Browne (wife of the Bishop of Winchester) being
present, and then and there, with the cordial approval
of the Bishop of Winchester, the Mothers' Union was
called into existence as a Diocesan organisation.
"The joy to me is great and abiding that my dear
husband was privileged to play, under God, so important
a part in leading our beloved Foundress to take the first
step of all the very many which have made our Mothers'
Union the mighty organisation it now is for the conquest,
in God's Name, of the nation's homes.'
WINCHESTER— THE FIRST TEN YEARS
" A true home should be a light-house, shedding its quiet beams
far and wide." — Ruskin.
ON the South side of Winchester Cathedral, near to the
East end, stands an old-fashioned house with square
front, and many-paned windows in tall white
frames, and red brick walls that glow with a mellow
warmth against their background of grey stone traceries
and buttresses and soaring pinnacles. Nestling there in
its walled garden, on the sunny side of the Cathedral, it
seems the very type and picture of a true home, sheltered
and guarded by the Church — a summary, in its own
aspect, of the thirty-six years' tenancy which began at
the close of 1885.
All through those years — through dark days as through
bright — the old red house has been a centre of love, and
light, and warmth of inspiration to an ever-widening
circle beyond its welcoming doors. To make it a true
home was the aim with which Archdeacon Sumner and
his wife entered it that Christmas-tide; to share its
happiness with others, and to use its opportunities,
thankfully and unstintingly, in the service of the Lord
from Whose Hand they took them, day by day. How
abundantly the aim has been fulfilled might be told by
thousands who have found a welcome there, and by
hundreds of thousands into whose hearts the light of that
sunny " home of peace and love " has flashed like a
beacon across miles of land and sea.
26 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
It is a house with many windows, ample and wide;
a house, essentially, to look out from ; characteristic of that
later stage in their wedded life which began for husband
and wife when they took up their abode in Winchester
Close alone together. It was a home-centre, rather than
a home-circle, that they had to make now for the three
families that had taken the places of the three children
of former days. Only for that " youngest child," the
Mothers' Union, was the sheltered house in the Close to
be the nursery from which it should go forth into the
Every one who knew Mrs. Sumner will recall her
insistence upon the " first ten years " as the especial
portion of a mother in her child's life, the period in which
she can exercise her great prerogative of moulding its
character into a form that shall survive through all
succeeding influences. So that there seems to be a special
appropriateness in the fulfilment of this dictum in the
development of the Mothers' Union. She was, most
emphatically, the " Mother " upon whom its existence
depended in those early days, and to whom all its members
looked for help and guidance in dealing with each new
problem as it arose, and she used her opportunity to the
full in her untiring efforts to drive deep into the very
heart of the Union the ideals for which she had called
it into being.
It is not always easy to bear in mind the fact that
Mrs. Sumner had reached the age of 57 when she set to
work in earnest upon the vast enterprise of forming a
Mothers' Union throughout the world. It is an age
usually more or less suggestive of the shelf, even in the
present restless times, but there is not much hint of any
such leisured vantage-ground discernible among the
records of those early days in the Winchester home.
WINCHESTER— THE FIRST TEN YEARS 27
The work of planning and organising began without
delay, helped constantly by the Archdeacon's counsel
and experience, as his wife loved to acknowledge. She
had also the hearty and loyal co-operation of the fellow-
workers whom she speedily gathered round her, and the
assistance, from the first, of able secretaries, but it was
necessarily upon her own shoulders that the chief burden
of responsibility, and of effort as well, rested during the
initial stages of the work.
The amount of writing that Mrs. Sumner got through
in those days is a matter of awed conjecture ! Leaflets,
rules, explanatory papers, outlines of addresses, etc., were
produced with amazing rapidity, in addition to the
immense correspondence upon which she embarked. She
wrote personally to most of the Diocesan Bishops, ex
plaining the aims of the new venture, and asking for their
approval and support, besides seizing every opportunity
that offered itself of seeking to interest personal friends,
far and near. Nor was she less ready to follow up each
opening afforded by the letters of enquiry from strangers,
which soon began to reach her. Many a mother, attracted
by the thought of the Union, and with no Branch at hand
that she could join, would write direct to the Foundress,
and receive not only a prompt response, but a personal
welcome also into the fellowship of Christian motherhood.
In her busiest days Mrs. Sumner could always make
time to write the few words of loving sympathy which
have served in so many cases to turn the enquirer into
a staunch fellow- worker.
It used to be said of her in those days that she was
never without a pen in her hand, and it might be added
with equal truth that she was never without a journey
in prospect, or just completed, upon the business of the
Mothers' Union. She threw herself with characteristic
vigour into the work of starting new Branches, wherein
28 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMMER
her husband's help was again of the greatest value. His
position as Archdeacon brought him necessarily into
touch with a large number of clergy in the diocese, and
on his visits to different parishes Mrs. Sumner would
often accompany him, and take such occasion as might
offer of spreading the knowledge of the Mothers' Union.
She no longer shrank from addressing a meeting, when
one could be arranged. It seemed as though the last
battle with nervousness had been fought when she obeyed
the call to speak at Portsmouth, and though she herself
owned that she still often dreaded the ordeal, she never
shirked it again, and she never broke down. Her training
as a singer helped her here, and her utter lack of self-
consciousness. The portrait of her at the beginning of
this book — taken at about this time — gives one some idea
of the erect, simple pose which was characteristic of her
when she stood to address an audience, great or small,
and she did not mind which it was. To gain a single new
worker for the Mothers' Union was as worthy an under
taking, in the mind of its Foundress, as to sway a mass
meeting in the Albert Hall, and that musical voice of
hers stood her in good stead on all occasions. While, as
to her powers of persuasion, I wonder how many hundreds
of workers, and thousands of ordinary members have,
in their turn, been drawn to a meeting somewhat
half-heartedly, and with the firm resolve not to commit
themselves, and have come away captured by Mrs.
Sumner's confident claim upon their fellowship in the
glorious task of winning the nation's homes for Christ !
That, and nothing lower, was always the ground of her
appeal, and " oh ! what a mighty call it is ! " she said
in one of her addresses:
" Rich homes and poor homes — all alike — must be won
for our God ! It is a call to every one of us to live in prayer,
that His help, His blessing and His inspiration may rest upon
our earnest efforts."
WINCHESTER— THE FIRST TEN YEARS 29
" Let us settle it in our hearts that the greatest work we
can do for the nation is to strive to bring the Church into
the Home; which means Christ Himself into hearts and
homes Christ must be in every home, if it is to be in
any way a home of peace and love ....
" . . . . God's plans are better than our own, and He
has ordained that the training-place for His human creatures
should be the home: the training-place for parents as well
as children ....
" . . . . Our task is to restore true family life — for it is
God's own institution, and therefore a divine thing — and
to convince all our members that there are these two Divine
Institutions in the world — the Church and the Home. The
Home is God's institution as truly as is the Church: let that
be the truth that we proclaim ! "
It was a heavy task that Mrs. Sumner had set herself,
in the launching of the Mothers' Union, and she owned,
once or twice, that the strain of those first years was
sometimes not far from breaking her down. It would
probably have done so altogether, but that she never
increased it by thinking how great it was, or how much
she was doing, or had still to do. It was, emphatically,
Mrs. Sumner 's way to
"... make each new action sound and true,
Then leave it in its place unscanned."
It was her way, also, constantly to relieve the strain
of her own efforts by the worship of God's glory. I some
times wonder how much of that element of greatness
which characterised her public work — her fearlessness,
her certainty, and her breadth of vision— might be
traced to the Cathedral Services which she attended so
faithfully, and loved so well. In the heaviest press of
claims and duties she never allowed herself to be too busy
to seek in the united offering of praise and prayer a clearer
vision of the glory of the Lord she served. She told a
SO MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
friend that she always tried to leave self outside the
Cathedral door, so that her whole being might be filled
with the thought of God in His glorious temple. Perhaps
we have here the secret of the confidence — so simple and
so serene — with which she would go out into the world
again, in the spirit of Bishop Lightfoot's ideal Christian
worker who has laid down, " at the footstool of God,
all his hopes and all his fears, all his success and all his
failure, all that he is and all that he might be, content
to take up thence just that which God shall give him."
THE FIRST CONFERENCE.
The first Diocesan Conference of the Mothers' Union
was held in Winchester in November, 1887. About
eighty friends and fellow-workers were present, to whom
Mrs. Sumner was able to report a beginning full of promise,
as the result of those two years of hard work. The
Mothers' Union was by that time firmly established as
a Diocesan Society, with the approval and hearty support
of the Bishop of Winchester (then Dr. Harold Browne),
and numbered fifty-seven Branches actually in existence,
with eleven more about to be started. It had been
taken up also in seventeen other Dioceses, and fresh
enquiries were daily reaching its Foundress from far
and near. The time, therefore, seemed ripe for a forward
movement, involving a more extensive organisation,
and a full and definite statement of its fundamental
This statement, as accepted at the Conference, is
interesting to quote in full: —
" It must be clearly understood, in joining the Mothers'
Union, that there is no interference. Each member is asked
to carry out the principles of the Society in her own home,
in the best way she can, and it is well to depend as much upon
individual work as upon meetings.
WINCHESTER— THE FIRST TEN YEARS 31
" Those who join are asked to try and interest others in
the Union, and persuade them to become members.
" The Principles upon which we would build our work
are these: —
" That the prosperity of a nation springs from the family
life of the homes.
" That family life is the greatest institution in the world
for the formation of the character of children.
44 That the tone of family life depends in great measure
upon the married life of the parents — their mutual love,
loyalty and faithfulness the one to the other.
" That religion is the indispensable foundation of family
life, and that the truths of the Christian faith should be taught
definitely at home as well as at school.
" That parents are themselves responsible for the religious
teaching of their children.
" That character is formed during the first ten years of
life by the example and habits of Home.
" That example is stronger than precept, and parents there
fore must be themselves what they wish their children to be.
" That the history of the world proves the divine power
given by God to parents, and to Mothers especially, because
children are placed in their arms from infancy, in a more
intimate and closer relationship with the Mother than with
the Father, and this moreover, during the time when character
" That the training of children is a profession.
" That it needs faith, love, patience, method, self-control,
and some knowledge of the principles of character-training.
" That it is the duty of every Mother with her own lips
to teach her child that he is God's child, consecrated body
and soul in Holy Baptism to be our Lord Jesus Christ's soldier
and servant unto his life's end.
" That every baptised child should be taught the Creed,
the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments .... and all
other things which a Christian ought to know and believe
to his soul's health."
32 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
Detailed rules and provisions for working the Society
were also drawn up, and a card of membership was
adopted, similar, in all respects, to the one Mrs. Sumner
had drawn up for her own band of mothers at Old
Alresford, more than ten years before. Its great feature
was that, as Mrs. Sumner always was careful to point
out, it presented no " tests " of membership, but set
forth the two Sacraments ordained of Christ Himself
" as the pillars of our work, because they centre in Him."
" On every card we place the two Sacraments, not
as part of the rules (there is no sacramental test) but as
the pillars of our work, and we have found them to be so.
They are the standing orders of our Master, Jesus Christ,
and we nail them to our mast."
The card of membership was always a matter of
importance in Mrs. Sumner's eyes, as a reminder of those
obligations of Christian motherhood which members of
the Union pledged themselves to strive, with God's help,
to fulfil. She used constantly to urge that the card should
not be put away in some place where it would be forgotten,
but kept where it would be seen frequently enough to serve
its purpose. Another of her suggestions was that
members should try to make a practice of reading the
card through on Sundays, " remembering that they
have promised to try and keep these rules, and that each
one means a great deal in character training."
The mention of the card brings to mind what was
probably one of the hardest efforts and greatest achieve
ments in all Mrs. Sumner 's long work for the Mothers'
Union. I refer to the time, some twenty-five years later,
when the Central Council of the Society resolved that
some changes in the form of the Members' Card had become
desirable. That card was so near to Mrs. Sumner's heart,
that the proposal could not come otherwise than as a pang
to her, breaking, as it inevitably must, the cherished
WINCHESTER— THE FIRST TEN YEARS 33
associations of so many years; but when she found
herself in the minority, she accepted the decision of her
fellow-members of Council with a ready gentleness which
impressed more than one among them as a greater triumph
than even the most brilliant of her successes.
GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT.
"From this meeting held in Winchester in 1887,"
Mrs. Sumner herself wrote, " dated the rapid progress of
the Mothers' Union. It seemed to fill a recognised want,
and from one diocese after another came the reports
of fresh Branches started under episcopal sanction, and
with the help and support of the parochial clergy."
The following year saw the extension of the work
among young mothers of means and leisure, with the
help of the Dowager Marchioness of Hertford, who soon
became one of the most valued leaders of the Mothers'
Union. She was immensely interested in it from the
first, and spared no pains to gain the support of mothers
of all classes.
Another important step forward was made in the
starting, in 1888, of the Mothers' Union Journal, at
Lady Jenkyns' suggestion, and under her able editorship.
Now that the Journal has attained its present considerable
size, and vast circulation, it is interesting to recall the
fact that it was first issued as quite a small leaflet, to
supplement Mrs. Sumner 's personal work by circulating
a quarterly letter from her to the many new Branches
of the Union which it would be beyond her power to visit.
8000 of these papers were issued in the first year, but
by the end of 1889 they had been more than doubled
in size, while the circulation had risen to over 46,000.
Two years later the work of the Journal was supple
mented by the publication of Mothers in Council, to
cater for a different circle of readers, and in this second
34 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
venture both Bishop* and Mrs. Stunner took a large
share from the start. They made themselves responsible
for the initial loss, and shared the literary work with
Miss Charlotte Yonge, who edited it until her last illness.
Piles of letters from Miss Yonge have survived among
Mrs. Sumner's papers, showing how closely and harmoni
ously they worked together. The Bishop himself took
over the editorship for some years after Miss Yonge's
death in 1901, and when the periodical was finally handed
over to the Centre, a substantial sum of accumulated
profits went with it.
In 1890 Mrs. Sumner addressed a meeting in London
which resulted in the starting of a London Diocesan
Branch of the Mothers' Union in the London Diocese,
largely through the initiative of Lady Horatia Erskine
and the Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Hubbard. Two years later
the first general Conference of the Union was convened
in London, at which it was reported that the Society
was then at work in twenty-eight dioceses, the number
of Branches being 1550, with a total membership of
over 60,000. This wide extension of the work seemed
to call for a central organisation, which the Foundress
herself advocated, but it was not found possible, on
that occasion, to advance beyond a decision to hold an
Annual Conference of representatives from all the dioceses,
for the discussion of questions affecting the work of the
It took three more years to develop the centralisation
of the work, and during that time Mrs. Sumner's own
energies were greatly taken up with the care of her
husband. His consecration, as Bishop of Guildford,
in 1888, had entailed an increasing amount of work
* Archdeacon Sumner was consecrated Bishop of Guildford
WINCHESTER— THE FIRST TEN YEARS 35
upon him, and in 1892 he found himself forced to rest.
An accident that summer, in which he broke his right
leg, increased his disabilities, and he and Mrs. Sumner
spent the following winter in Algiers. Even after they
had returned to Winchester, Mrs. Sumner found her
presence very needful at home, and she was ready to
welcome the completion, in 1895, of a scheme for establish
ing a central Mothers' Union Organisation in London,
to be governed by a Council of Diocesan Presidents and
Elected Members, under a Central President.
"Thus," as Lady Horatia Erskine wrote, "the much-
needed Central Organisation became an accomplished fact,
the heart of a great body, beating through all its many
veins and arteries with the life derived from the love of
God and the desire to promote His Kingdom in all the
* families of the earth.'"
Needless to say, the Foundress of the Mothers' Union
was unanimously elected to the office of Central President,
and the first Central Council was held, under her leader
ship, in May 1896.
(The earliest badge of the Mothers' Union.)
"Uniting many hearts in many lands,
And drawing all to thoughts of things above."
Epitaph on Lady Augusta Stanley.
THIS seems to be the most fitting point at which
to speak of Mrs. Sumner's part in the world-wide
extension of the Mothers' Union overseas. That
extension was just beginning to make itself felt at the
time when the centralisation of the Society was accom
plished, and it is a significant point to note in the after-
history of the work, that the growth of this overseas
work has kept pace with the strengthening of the centre.
The year 1893 saw the starting of the Mothers' Union
in New Zealand and Australia; Tasmania, India and
Ceylon coming next, in 1895; and the West Indies,
Canada, Japan, Cairo, Malta and South America following
in the course of the next four years. South Africa had to
wait until the end of the War, in 1902, and after that
the rate of development grew increasingly rapid, in all
parts of the world. The history of this continued advance
" into all the world " must be read elsewhere, but no
picture of Mrs. Sumner's life would be complete without
some reference to the personal share which she herself
took in it, by her pen, by her prayers, and by that true
mother's love that went out to all the daughter Branches
of her beloved Union in far-off lands.
Of that love, and of the quick response it never failed
to evoke, I am glad to be able to give a reminiscence
which Miss Gertrude King * supplies from her own
" From the moment that our Foundress heard of the need
of Mothers' Union work in Madagascar, she took the Malagasy
mother to her heart. Needless to say they idealised her,
and she became to them an embodiment of all that is highest
and best in motherhood. Wonderful letters passed between
them. Mrs. Sumner always began, ' My dear daughters,' and
ended as ' your loving white mother.' She greatly treasured
the following letter, which she received from the Madagascar
Branch soon after it was started : —
" * To Madam Sumner and the Mothers' Union over the
sea (England): —
We, the members of the Mothers' Union here in
Madagascar, come to visit you and the Mothers' Union over
the sea. We, your children, were very pleased to receive your
letter of welcome into the Mothers' Union. We ask you to
pray to God to help forward the Mothers' Union in the future,
if it is His Will, and we are glad that Miss King has been sent
to tell us about it, and to help it forward ....
We are ninety-one mothers now, who promise to keep the
rules, and we hope, by the blessing of God, the Union will
become still larger. We thank you very, very much for the
beautiful members' cards; we, your children in the Lord.
We visit you, and say good-bye to you, and to the Mothers'
Union over the seas.
Hoy Rasoan Andrianina (in the name of all your children
in the Union in Antananarivo).'
" Some years later a returned missionary met Mrs. Sumner,
and she said to him : ' Do you know that I have 500 dear black
daughters in Madagascar ? ' Later on the 500 became 1000,
and she still claimed them all unreservedly as her 4 dear
* Central Overseas Secretary to the Mothers' Union j formerly
Diocesan Secretary in Madagascar.
38 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
" The following message was taken home to her by a
returning missionary: —
"*Tell her,' the Malagasy members said, 'that we will
try, by the grace of God, to hold the Faith and keep the com
mandments, until we meet her in Paradise.'
" In a letter, written in 1919, of thanks for a small present
of Malagasy lace, Mrs. Sumner expressed her desire that all
her * black daughters ' should know 4 how dear they are to
me, and how earnestly I pray for them that they may have
their hearts given to their Heavenly Father and our precious
Saviour Jesus Christ, as faithful wives and true Christian
mothers, dedicating their children in Holy Baptism, filled with
the Holy Spirit, and training them for eternal happiness in
their heavenly Home .... Do tell my Malagasy members
how much I love them and pray for them, as well as for others
who are so near and dear to me. Oh ! may we meet, when
this life is over, in the glorious Presence of our Blessed
It was the living personality that shone out through
all Mrs. Sumner's letters, which made them so potent
a force in strengthening the bond of union with mothers
overseas. In a letter from some Australian members to
their Foundress, they sent her their loving assurance that
they blessed God " for what you are, as well as for what
you are doing for mothers, and for generations to come " ;
and a rather solitary worker in South Africa wrote : —
*' You know, don't you, that we out here, in this far away
corner of the Vineyard, say, * God bless Mrs. Sumner,' thanking
Him for having given you the inspiration and the zeal and
the courage to start the Mothers' Union, and patience to put
it on such a firm basis ? "
This last was a point often referred to, as giving the
Mothers' Union its great value as a means of raising the
ideal of motherhood. From China, when the work was
started there, came word that Mrs. Sumner's insistence
upon the reverence due from a mother to the infant life
came from God, was the teaching most needed to
counteract that disregard of the sanctity of life which
has cast s,o grim a shadow over Chinese homes.
A letter from a member in China, which Mrs. Sumner
greatly treasured, is interesting to read in the translation
that accompanied it.
" From China — Kutien City — Hill of New Righteousness,
' Female Light ' Women's School.
Greetings to the Bishop's wife ! All happiness and peace !
We hear that the Mothers' Union was started by your
Honourable Person. We feel that it was of God's grace that
you were allowed to begin such a Union, thus showing your
great love to the little, little children of China, and by this
means also to teach us women of China good methods of care
fully bringing up, and educating our children — a work beyond
our human strength. We beg you and all other members of the
Mothers' Union to pray for us, that we mothers may receive
God's Holy Spirit, to do this work in His strength.
At our last meeting the letter written by your Honourable
Person was read to us, and all present were delighted to hear
it. Ten new members joined our Union that afternoon, stirred
by your letter. We do so thank God for this, and will not
cease to be thankful.
I rejoice that my six grandchildren can have such good,
The letter of Ding Daik Ching, for the Kutien Branch of
the Mothers' Union."
It is tempting to go on quoting from the old packets
of letters from all parts of the world, treasured by her
to whom they were written for the sake of the love they
expressed, but one more must suffice, this time from India,
whence Miss Rix wrote : —
" I gave your message to the mothers at the last meeting.
They were most grateful, and begged to send you their warmest
salaams and thanks for your prayers and your remembrances . . .
Some of the keener spirits among them have banded themselves
into a little company for holding cottage meetings, and paying
visits, to stir up the careless and indifferent,"
40 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
And a little later on she tells how Mrs. Sumner's last
letter to the Branch had been translated into Tamil, to
the great pleasure of the members.
Over and over again one reads, in different words,
the same assurance of eager appreciation of all the little
personal tokens which went out in such generous profusion
from the old red house by the Cathedral, far and wide
across the seas, into ancient kingdoms and new lands.
One New Zealand worker wrote, on her return from a visit
to the old country, to tell of the interest aroused in her
members by the photographs of Winchester Cathedral
she had brought back with her — " particularly the one
showing your own home."
A photograph of the Foundress herself, needless to say,
was still more highly prized when she sent it, as she
sometimes did, with a letter of motherly love and greeting
to some new Branch. Her " far-away daughters " were
very near her heart, and she made it a rule not to let a
day pass without bringing their needs, together with her
own, to God in prayer and offering thanks on their behalf,
for each new achievement granted to them through the
It was a keen personal pleasure to her to be asked by
some members in West Africa to join with them in praising
God for "what the Mothers' Union has done for some
homes in Lagos," or to hear from Australia of the splendid
pioneer work done through the Branches there, in the
cause of religious education.
A personal relationship is so subtle a thing that one
fears to spoil some of its beauty by emphasising it over
much; yet, on the other hand, it is hardly possible to
over-estimate the significance in the development of the
Mothers' Union overseas, of the living bond of love and
prayer which kept the Foundress, in her quiet home,
linked with the loneliest member, and the remotest
As one Diocesan President wrote from Australia : —
" So many of our mothers lived in England once,
and some have been here quite a short time ; and it is so
touching the way they come up to me at the meetings,
and tell me of the English Branch to which they belonged,
and how — in many cases they 4 once ' heard you speak,
or ' once ' saw you."
" She was a lady with white hair," was one member's
reminiscence, " and a lovely smile ! And she spoke to us
as if she loved us all."
Another Australian worker, writing to Mrs. Sumner
about an expedition made up-country to start a Branch
in some isolated spot, insisted that " the best credentials
I brought were that I had known you."
If the personal link had been all, it might have promised
ill for the continuance of the work based upon it, but
Mrs. Sumner never relaxed her insistence upon those
fundamental principles which were the true bond of
union among members throughout the world, and upon
the one aim to which they were all pledged, in the conquest
of the nation's homes for God.
At the first overseas Conference, held in London in
1897, this was the point on which the Foundress chiefly
dwelt, She spoke of the interest she had taken in other
forms of work, and how it had at last struck her that almost
all organisations of good work were hampered by the
home influence being so often against them. By degrees
she had come to realise that what was needed to spread
Christ's Kingdom on earth was to win the homes for Him.
And to this end, as she wrote to an Overseas President,
44 we must get the members of our Mothers' Union to
act as missionaries amongst their relations and friends,
helping to bring the Christian life into the darkened homes
where as yet our dear kord is not loved and honoured,"
42 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
THE GOLDEN WEDDING.
On the 26th of July, 1898, the Bishop and Mrs. Sumner
kept their Golden Wedding Day. The family part of
the Commemoration came in the morning, when over
thirty near relatives and friends joined with them at
what was in the truest sense a Eucharist, in the Cathedral.
In the afternoon a large gathering was assembled by the
Diocesan Council of the Mothers' Union, at the old
Palace of Wolvesey, whereat the Bishop and hL wife
were to be the honoured guests.
The main function of the afternoon was the presenta
tion of various addresses and other tokens of the deep
gratitude and affection which members of the Mothers'
Union had learnt to feel for their Foundress. The gifts
had all been chosen for their appropriateness to Mrs.
Sumner's labours, and included some gold pencils, a
beautiful old writing table with gilt fittings, and bank
notes to the amount of £125, for the furtherance of
Mrs. Sumner's thanks were simply spoken, and referred
mainly to the debt she owed to her husband in the work
to which she had been called. " He has been my guide,
adviser, and constant helper at every step in the history
of the Mothers' Union, and without him I should never
have been able to carry it on."
And then, with one of her happy touches, she added,
smiling : " As it is our Golden Wedding Day, you will
bear with me if I praise my husband, and say we can
look back on fifty years of happy, united, blessed life."
To the Bishop of Guildford was left the official returning
of thanks, and yet he too robbed it of most of its formality,
as he spoke gratefully of the wonderful kindness that
had been showered upon them all the day.
" We have been receiving numberless telegrams,
letters, ancj presents since the early morning, the door-bell
has been ringing incessantly, and this all shows the kind,
loving feeling towards my dear wife and myself, which
touches me deeply ....
" I do not believe any one in this room, except myself,
knows the hours she spends in work connected with the
Mothers' Union. I know the Society is looked upon by
some members of our family as my wife's youngest child,
and I am afraid they sometimes think that the youngest
child is taxing their mother's strength too much ! But
I am confident that it is taxed in a good work. I believe
that not until the last day comes shall we ever know the
good which this Mothers' Union is doing, not only in
England, or in this Diocese, but throughout the four
quarters of the globe."
A service of thanksgiving was held the next day in the
Cathedral, at which some 1200 members of the Mothers'
Union in the Winchester Deanery joined in thanksgiving
for the work of the Union, and this was followed by another
gathering at Wolvesey Palace, to give an opportunity
for the presents to be seen, and for the Bishop and Mrs.
Sumner to express their thanks in person to this larger
"Being bereaved of you for a short season, in presence, not
LOOKING through the records of the decade between
Mrs. Sumner's "Golden" and "Diamond"
Wedding celebrations, it is not easy to bear in mind
the fact that these were the years from 70 to 80 in her age.
They were as full as ever of work and interest, and on
a wider scale than was feasible so long as the responsibility
for the organisation of the Mothers' Union rested so
heavily upon the shoulders of its Foundress. The fact of
having completed her three score years and ten was to her
no reason for laying down her task, but rather for striving
more and more fervently to work while yet it was day.
Her responsibilities as Central President had the first
claim upon her work for the Society, and very faithfully
did she fulfil them. The meetings of the Central Council
and Committee, now held in London, were not only
regularly attended by the President, but earnestly pre
pared for also, by her own unfailing method of quiet
prayer and waiting upon God. And the result was
strikingly apparent to her fellow- workers. I think that
throughout the whole task of collecting personal records
and reminiscences of Mrs. Sumner, nothing has struck
me more forcibly than the unanimity of the impressions
retained by those who attended the Council in those
AN ENDING 45
One after another has chosen precisely the same points
to emphasise. First, the personality of the President
herself; the sweetness of temper which she combined
with a very strong will, and her gracious, unfailing
courtesy. And next — even more strongly — all alike
were conscious of the " atmosphere of the Holy Spirit,"
as one has called it, that she brought into all their delibera
tions. Her opening prayer was so real, some have said;
it seemed to create a new and spiritual atmosphere,
filled with the personal Presence of the Lord to Whom
she would assuredly be turning for light and help in
meeting each problem that arose.
A letter received from one of the Vice-Presidents*
voices the impressions of all.
" 1 can truly say that I never attended our Executive
Meetings without feeling that from the moment when our
President asked God's blessing on the work we were about
to undertake, it seemed as though His Spirit were indeed there,
guiding and helping her, and making us all realise that it
was His work that we were privileged to have a share in.
I used to return home after those meetings strengthened and
The records of work done in Council and Committee
belong to the history of the Society rather than of its
Foundress, and must be looked for there. The one point
I would note in this place — for it was a matter so near
to Mrs. Sumner's heart — is that it was while still under
her leadership that the Mothers' Union first stood forth
before the world as a body of women definitely pledged
to labour, and to fight, if need be, for the sanctity of
One tiny anecdote must be allowed a place; it is so
characteristic. It was in those early days, when the
first corporate efforts of the Union in this direction were
* Mrs. W. H. Johnson, M.U. President in the Diocese of Chester.
46 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
being planned, that a counsellor from outside, of cautious
mind, urged Mrs. Sumner not to set her aims too high
or plan impossibilities.
" Where is the use," he asked, " in wasting your
energies on things outside the scheme of practical
politics ? "
Quick as thought came the rejoinder — given quite
simply, and not as an attempt to " score " — " Is God,
then, outside the scheme of practical politics ? "
THE WORK OF SPEAKING.
This seems to be the place in which to touch more
particularly upon Mrs. Sumner's methods and gifts of
speaking, and her counsels to other speakers; not that
these belong, in any exclusive sense, to the time when
she was President, but only that they were necessarily
brought then into greater prominence. Requests to speak
in different parts of the country poured in upon her, and
she had more time to spare for travelling now that she
had been relieved of the detailed work of organisation.
It seems strange to think of a speaker's heaviest work
being undertaken after the age of 70, yet so it was with
Mrs. Sumner, and the largest of all her meetings — a
gathering of some 8000 in the London Albert Hall — was
addressed by her when she was not far off 80 !
Her girlhood's training as a singer stood her in good
stead, enabling her to keep that beautiful voice of hers
serviceable to the end, and also to make it audible in even
the largest halls, without effort to her hearers or herself.
At a crowded meeting in that difficult place for sound,
the Great Hall in the Westminster Church House, many
who were present have told me that of all the speakers,
men and women, Mrs. Sumner was the only one whose
every word could be heard quite easily at the far end of
AN ENDING 47
A beautiful voice, carefully trained ; we must not lose
sight of that second element in Mrs. Sumner's success
as a speaker, for it was one upon which she herself laid
constant stress. In all the advice she used to give to other
speakers, she would insist upon the importance of learning,
not merely how to speak at a meeting, but first and
foremost how to produce and use the voice. Right breath
ing, true enunciation, and the elimination of strain —
all these, she considered, needed to be learnt and practised
as a matter of voice-training.
" You have to be taught to write, first of all," she
would say, " and not straightway to write a letter. And
just in the same way you must begin by learning to speak
in the right way, before you can learn to speak at a meeting.
If you can do the first, the second will be no trouble
Such was certainly her own experience, and her remark
able success makes her advice worth listening to. Her
counsels were practical, clear and very simple. The
work of speaking, to her mind, demanded three distinct
lines of preparation, and the method she advocated was
the same for each; to make your preparation thorough,
and then to forget it.
She took first, as I have said, the preparation of
the voice, as the instrument to be used ; her advice being :
" Master your instrument ; learn to use your voice in the
right way, and then you need never give it a thought at
your meetings. It won't fail you."
Next came the preparation of the mind, as the user
of the instrument ; and this meant the clear and careful
grouping of the subject to be dealt with. Mrs. Sumner
was fond of recommending the " peg " method of working
one's mind over the fundamental elements in the subject
until certain definite points emerged, which could be
ranged in order in the memory, as " pegs " whereon to
48 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
hang the different parts of what has to be said. Here
also she urged thoroughness in preparation, and most
sincerely did she practise it herself. The old notes that
have survived show how carefully she would write out
beforehand not only the gist but the substance of what
she had to say upon even the most familiar topics. To
the very end of her work as a speaker, when the pen
moved less lightly in fingers that were growing stiff, she
would cover pages with almost the complete text of quite
a simple address ; not that she needed or would use them
when the time came, but simply to make her preparation
as complete as possible.
The third and crowning part in this preparation was,
of course, that of the hearty to be made in an act of offering.
The trained voice and the carefully arranged thoughts
must be laid at the Master's Feet, for Him to bless and
to use according to His will. This was no form of words
with Mary Sumner, but the actual process which she
carried out before every meeting she addressed. Having
done her own part in preparation, she wanted to give
God time to do His, by kneeling at His Feet in simple,
humble waiting upon Him. The careful work and thought,
once done, must be forgotten; merged in the thought
of God, burnt up in the flame of His Spirit, in order that
the result which should issue forth might be purged of
the dross of self and self-seeking. Her daughter tells us
how her mother would go apart for a quiet hour of prayer
before the simplest village meeting no less than before
her largest gatherings.
The assurance of having her subject " at her fingers'
ends " was not enough for Mrs. Sumner. It was not at
her fingers' ends, she would say, but in her heart that a
speaker must have her subject, if she would reach the
hearts of others ; and for this she must look to God for
the in-breathed power of His Holy Spirit.
AN ENDING 49
Yet although Mrs. Sumner set her standard of prepara
tion high, she would not allow that it was beyond the
reach of any one with a real message to give, and a live
enthusiasm in the giving of it. Those she held to be the
two indispensable elements in a speaker's equipment.
" One great secret of success in speaking is to be thoroughly
4 enthused ' with one's subject — to have mind and heart full
of it, to feel every word we utter — then ' the living thought
will speak the winged word ; for thoughts that breathe always
find words that burn.' ....
" . . . . Enthusiasm is a thorough belief in the greatness
and importance of the cause we have taken up, and the crusade
of the Mothers' Union is to try and win every home in the
land for our Sovereign Master, through the influence of the
Another secret of success in speaking she summed up
in Canon Fleming's phrase, as the " art of forgetting
yourself and others " ; an art " not incompatible with the
most careful study and the most finished utterance."
I quote from some admirable " Hints to Speakers "
(published as a leaflet), in which Mrs. Sumner makes an
earnest appeal to the ordinary Enrolling Member to
sacrifice her own shyness arid self-distrust in the cause
of the Mothers' Union, and make a venture of faith in
speaking to her fellow-members of the great things wherein
all are equally concerned.
" You can speak simply and readily to two or three
people," she urged. " Why not to twenty or thirty ?
You can say the few words that are necessary at a meeting
of your own Branch ; why not also to another Branch in
your own neighbourhood ? "
That was Mrs. Sumner's great point — that no Mothers'
Union worker had the right to say she could not speak
until she had tried, and she instanced, for the encouragement
of others, her own early experience.
50 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
" On one occasion a large band of mothers was awaiting
the arrival of the speaker who had convened them. They
waited in vain. She was assailed by an unconquerable dread
that day — she gave up the struggle, and the women were
sent away; but the next tune she persevered through pain
and difficulty, and now the fear and nervousness has in the
" .... I am convinced that nine out of ten educated
women could become good speakers, and touch the hearts
of mothers of all classes, if they would simply carry out some
of the practical suggestions given, and share with others the
strong convictions they themselves have formed of their
44 .... Christ has need of your individual work — no
one else can do it ; if you refuse, that particular piece of work
will be left undone."
And the loss would be not only to the work, but to
the worker ; that was the other side of the truth, which
she dwelt upon elsewhere. " Every rejected opportunity
of service makes life poorer, duller, less God-like."
There stood the penalty of timorousness, and over
against it was the promise of strength and help to those
of good courage. Mrs. Sumner would often point to the
rich rewards won by the speaker who learns to make
ventures in the Name of the Lord; to the wonderful
nearness to Christ which comes from clinging to His
Presence; to the power which springs from dependence
upon Him, and, above all, to the peace and poise of mind
so vital to the work of speaking.
" Make Him your Friend and Helper in this matter. He
can keep you ' in perfect peace.' He only. He can quiet all
your restless anxieties, and banish all your fears and your
thoughts of self, and tune your mind to peace and harmony.
That is His great work:
4 Thou shalt know Him, when He comes,
By the holy harmony
That His Presence makes hi thee,' "
AN ENDING 51
Just one word must be added as to the effect which
Mrs. Sumner's counsels have had upon those whom she
sought to encourage to make the venture of speaking
to others, and here I cannot do better than quote from
two letters. The first was written to Mrs. Sumner herself,
after an interview which her correspondent found " a
real help and inspiration."
" You have been so much used in the Master's service
that I think you passed on some of your own fire. You made
me feel that I must be 4 up and doing ' more bravely in my
little corner of the Vineyard. ... I take much back with me,
and I shall try to carry out your suggestions."
Another worker, writing about Mrs. Sumner, says : —
44 She has led even very timid and inefficient me to dare
to speak to Mothers' Union Branches, because she made the
Union such a great reality that one had to speak about it when
no one else could or would."
THE ALBERT HALL MEETING.
It would not be possible to furnish a complete list of
Mrs. Sumner's meetings in different parts of the country;
still less to give any report of them all. It seems best,
therefore, to deal rather fully with the great London
gathering of October, 1908, as being fairly representative,
and also in itself somewhat of a historic occasion.
The meeting was fully reported in various newspapers,
from one of which I quote here.
" A great meeting for members of the Mothers' Union was
held in the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington, on October 31st,
under the presidency of the Bishop of Stepney, now Arch
bishop of York. The assembly numbered over 8000, and
many requests for tickets had had to be refused. The gathering
was representative of every class. Mrs. Sumner, Central
President of the Mothers' Union, was one of the speakers, and
when she entered the Hall with the Bishop of Stepney a most
52 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
hearty reception was accorded her. Other speakers were the
Bishop of Manchester, Mrs. Oluwole, Mrs. Clare Goslett and
the Rev. H. Woollcombe.
*' In the course of the Chairman's opening address he begged
his hearers to realise what was so strongly present in his own
mind, that in speaking to those many thousands in the Mothers'
Union, he was speaking to many thousands of the ministers
of God. He appealed very earnestly to every mother there
to look up continually into the Face of Him — the Almighty
Father — after Whom all fatherhood is named, and to realise
that from Him direct they receive a ministry — the ministry
of the protection and consecration of the home. ... He
concluded a very fine speech upon the vocation of mother
hood by calling upon ' one whom you all have met to listen
to and to honour — one who is never old in appearance, and
everlastingly young in heart — Mrs. Sumner !
" When Mrs. Sumner stood up to speak the immense
assembly rose as one to their feet, and greeted her with cheers
and applause and the waving of handkerchiefs.
" Mrs. Sumner said she could hardly express how over
whelmed she felt with their kindness, their sympathy, and
their love. It was an immense joy to her to meet them all,
and she earnestly trusted that this splendid gathering — they
had never had such a large one before — would result in a much
stronger belief in the three objects for which they were working.
" . . . . The Mothers' Union had just come of age, it was
21 years old, and she was happy to say they had now nearly
covered the Empire with their number of over a quarter- !
of-a-million members and associates, and 6000 branches. Lastl
year the numbers who joined them were 22,895. Besides that t
she was glad to say their objects and their rules had been|
translated into twelve different languages, and they were J
winning a way in other countries.
"It might be said that in this country the two greatest
institutions, the two Divine institutions, were the Church
and the Home. The Home based on holy marriage — faithful
marriage — was appointed by God for the good of humanity
when He created the world. She wanted them to remember
AN ENDING 58
that the character of the whole nation was formed in the
Home. People talked about the schools, and a great help
they were, when they were Christian schools ; but it was in the
Home — God's own institution — that the character of the
nation was truly formed ....
" . . . . There was nothing more beautiful than the way in
which a little child was naturally attracted by the person
of our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ. The secret of a noble life
was to teach the child that he was a soldier of Christ, and
they must begin the battle of life early.
" . . . . They must know what they believed, so that they
could teach their children. Inculcate the vital truths of
Christianity, and they armed children for the time when they
left home, and stepped into the great world, and took their
part in the battle of life. . . .
" She ended her eloquent address with a profoundly moving
appeal, which reached the ears of all the thousands present,
and their hearts also — coming, as it clearly did, directly from
" ' O my sisters ! with all my heart and soul I beseech
you to be earnest in prayer and effort, not only so that your
own homes may shine gloriously for our Master Christ, but
also that you may try to win over other homes for Him.' "
THE OLD RED HOUSE.
From this picture of the vast hall, and the crowded
meeting, and the thousands of Mothers' Union members
eagerly listening to every word their Foundress spoke to
them — eagerly striving to gain a look, a word, a smile
from her as she left the Hall — it is pleasant to follow
her back to the old red house in the Cathedral Close,
where the peaceful life went on, as undisturbed, and as
deeply prized by her as though she had no calls to take
her beyond those quiet precincts.
Gradually, as the first decade of the new century went by,
Mrs. Sumner found herself drawn more and more continu
ously within the circle of the home, owing to the failure
54 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
of her husband's health. Each year that passed brought
some diminution of the Bishop's strength, and with it the
laying down of one after another of the labours that he
loved. He resigned the office of Archdeacon in 1900,
his work as Bishop of Guildford in 1906, and the Canonry
in his beloved Cathedral shortly afterwards. This was the
greatest wrench of all, but happily it did not entail leaving
the home which had grown so dear to hit, wife and himself
in the twenty-two years throughout which they had made
it such a " sunny meeting-ground for all and sundry."
So the Bishop of Southampton* describes it, in
speaking of the days when he succeeded Dr. Sumner as
" It was all so 4 fair as well as good ' — the home-life in the
latest days of more than sixty sunny years, with the gentle
Bishop at one end of the table, and the pretty old lady at the
other. The quiet garden beyond, that she so dearly loved,
was just the outer setting and expression of the home peace
within, from whence emanated all that amazing energy."
It is a pleasant picture of the life in the old red house ;
and side by side with it other glimpses also take shape
from treasured memories. In one of these we see the
garden, on a summer's afternoon, thronged with mothers
young and old, whom the Bishop and his wife are enter
taining at tea, and to whom they will presently each speak
a few simple words of good cheer.
That is a frequent scene, as also is the next, when the
garden walls ring with the merry shouts of choir boys
from the Cathedral, invited there for games followed by
an ample tea. Mrs. Sumner's love for boys, and her real
enjoyment of their company, never left her. She delighted
in watching them at play which recalled the old happy
* Dr. Cecil Boutflower, consecrated Bishop of Dorking in
1906; became Bishop of South Tokyo in 1909, and Bishop of
Southampton in 1921.
AN ENDING 55
days with her brother at Hope End, and when full justice
had been done to the tea provided, she would take them
up to the roomy, old-fashioned drawing room for a con
cluding game of " musical chairs," playing for them herself,
her daughter tells us, " the same merry tunes and polkas
that she had played for us when we were children."
A fresh picture is called up, of the hall door hospitably
open, and the white-haired mistress of the house standing
there to welcome her own dear ones when they came to
visit her. Children and grandchildren — great grand
children, too, as the years went on — nephews and nieces,
all used to look forward to the loving greeting which they
knew would await them on the very threshold of the home.
"Again and again I can picture," writes one of them,
" how she would be standing at the door when we arrived,
her arms stretched out in welcome." And when the time
came for departure it would be just the same. " She
insisted, even in her old age, upon coming to the door,
and waving farewell as long as she could see us."
One glimpse more ; outside in the garden this time, in
the golden eventide. Husband and wife are alone together
now ; seated perhaps under the shadow of the cedar tree,
or strolling in the sunshine up and down the lawn, or
along the path leading to the stream at the far end. Or
they may make a slower progress beside the flower-
borders dear to them both, to note the blossoming of
some cherished plant, or to pause while Mrs. Sumner clips
off a dead flower or straggling leaf-spray ; for the perfect
order of her garden was very near to her heart. And
then, perhaps, the Cathedral bells begin to chime, and
they turn their steps out from the walled garden and along
the flagged path to the Church door, to join together in
the prayer and praise which link their earthly life and
love with things eternal.
56 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMMER
THE DIAMOND WEDDING
The Diamond Wedding Day (July 26th, 1908) found
Mrs. Sumner in her 80th year, and the Bishop just 84.
His health was too frail for any formal function, and
the wedding-day itself, which fell on a Sunday, was com
memorated only by a gathering of the innermost family
circle, at the old house, and in the Cathedral.
As Mrs. Sumner wrote to a friend: —
" You little know how touched I am by the tender
sympathy, love and good wishes of my beloved fellow-workers
in all classes at this very eventful moment in our lives. We
have our children with us, and we are simply crowned with
love — affectionate letters, telegrams, flowers, gifts, and kind
friends coming to wish us joy."
On the Monday a very simple presentation was made
of the Diamond Wedding gift sent by the members of
the Central Council of the Mothers' Union to its beloved
Foundress. It took the attractive and unique form of
a dwarf folding-screen inscribed with an Address, followed
by the signatures of all the members of Council from all
parts of the world. The collection of these must have been
in itself a true labour of love, and they were inset each
in its own small space in the white vellum face of the
screen, in its second and third panels, and surrounded with
finely illuminated borders. No pains had been spared
to make the array of signatures complete, and the deep
interest of the Queen and Princesses in the Mothers'
Union had made it possible to include autographs from
Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary (as Princess of Wales)
and other Royal Patronesses. The first panel of the
screen bore the Address, also illuminated, and surmounted
by a miniature copy of a Raphael Madonna and Child.
Lady Horatia Erskine had had the chief share in
carrying out this very gracious tribute, and it was much
to her disappointment that she found herself unable to
AN ENDING 57
make the presentation in person. Mrs. Herbert Morrell
undertook the task, together with the Central Secretary,
Mrs. Matthew, and they conveyed the screen to the Close
and presented it, with appropriate congratulations to the
Bishop and Mrs. Sumner, in the presence of the assembled
family. It was a most brief and simple little ceremony,
as Mrs. Morrell wrote to Lady Horatia Erskine.
" Jt was all over in five minutes, but it was a most touching
little scene, and one I shall never forget. The dear old lady
was too much overcome to speak. The Bishop said, 4 1 can't
make a speech, but I do thank you,' and then they kissed
After the Diamond Wedding came the great Albert
Hall Meeting already mentioned, and then followed a
time of deepening quiet in the old red house, as the shadow
of parting drew more near. Mrs. Sumner found herself
obliged to claim more and more exemption from the
public side of her work, for " my dearest Bishop needs
me, " she wrote, " and he and our home must come first."
Only sometimes, when her presence seemed specially
needed at some meeting, would she answer the call,
if one of her daughters could come to be with their father
in her stead.
Almost the last of these occasions was the Mothers'
Union Council Meeting in the spring of 1909, when Mrs.
Sumner presided for the last time, and sent out from the
Council a letter rallying the forces of the Union to a com
bined resistance to all attacks upon the sanctity of
marriage. When the Council next met, on the 8th of
December in that year, to make further plans for the
campaign decided upon, Mrs. Sumner was not there. Her
resignation of the Presidentship was laid before the
Council, to be received with sadness made deeper by the
knowledge of the sorrow that lay behind it.
58 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
The culmination of that sorrow was too imminent
for the occasion to be one of many words, but Mrs.
Davidson (wife of the Archbishop of Canterbury) gathered
up in a few sentences the thoughts which were in the
hearts of all present, with regard to their Foundress.
" The Mothers' Union owes its life to her — her personality
shines out through it, and her intense burning desire that
through our homes our nation's life shall increase in what
soever is pure, and lovely, and of good report. The conception
of binding mothers together in a prayerful body, holding this
high standard and thus strengthening the foundations of a truly
upright and religious national life, is a great one."
Very earnestly did the members of Council join that
day in prayer for the Mother of the Mothers' Union, that
she might be upheld in love's last silent ministry of bearing
her dear one company as far as might be into the unseen.
The past months had been, as she herself described
them, " one quiet sailing onwards, as it were, along
a placid stream to the gates of Eternity," and when
December came those gates were well-nigh reached. On
December 9th husband and wife received for the last
time together the blessed Sacrament which had hallowed
their love through all their sixty-one years of wedded life,
and then followed two days of that mysterious silence in
which souls that are closely knit seem able to go forward
together into the dark valley, so far as the living may
penetrate its shadows.
Into that last stage of love's earthly journey no other
eyes can pry, nor into the moment of parting when it comes
at last, and one of the twain must return, alone, to the
empty home and the busy world outside it, whilst the
other goes forward into the nearer Presence of the Lord.
Bishop Sumner died on December llth, 1909, and
five days later his body was carried out of the home which
AN ENDING 59
he had entered with his wife on just such a December
day twenty-four years before, and was laid to rest under
the shadow of the Cathedral, in the space of green beyond
its eastern end.
" So at last," as the Archbishop of York wrote to
Mrs. Sumner, " the end, or rather the new beginning surely,
has come, and your dear husband has passed through death
into life. . . .
" It must be almost impossible for you to realise that a
companionship so close and beautiful, lasting unbroken for
so many years, is closed. But, indeed, it cannot be closed.
It can only change its conditions and its sphere. It becomes
spiritual. It will soon, we cannot doubt, become eternal, yet,
a vanishing of the familiar, beautiful figure, the silence of
the familiar voice must be very hard to bear.
" Your friends — and among them will be thousands of
women whom you have helped, by word and by living example,
to realise the sanctity of marriage and the beauty of a true
home — sincerely pray that the Holy Spirit Himself may comfort
and strengthen and sustain you till your love and companion
ship is perfected in the true and lasting world."
THE GREAT CAUSE
" Yet not in solitude, if Christ anear me,
Waketh Him workers for the great employ ;
O not in solitude, if souls that hear me
Catch from my joyaunce the surprise of joy 1 "
HE lines come to one's mind in recalling Mrs. Sumner's
widowed years. They were, assuredly, neither lonely
nor unhappy years, although lived, as she herself
wrote, in " perpetual realisation of parting from one
whose tender and unselfish love crowned my heart and
life with never-failing peace and joy." Her faith in the
Communion of Saints was far too real, and too radiant,
not to lighten her sorrow, even at its darkest hour.
That, for one thing, and also she took her bereavement
as simply as she had taken her happiness, from God's
Hand, and saw in it His call for a yet fuller offering of
her time and strength in His service. As her daughter
tells us: —
" My mother always used to tell any who were in
sorrow, through the loss of their dear ones, that work
for God was the greatest solace, and she herself certainly
found it so."
The two causes to which Mrs. Sumner principally
gave herself during the years that remained to her were
the religious education of children, and the sanctity of
marriage. Or rather, it would be truer to speak of them
not as two causes, but as two aspects of the one great
cause to which she had consecrated all her powers — the
THE GREAT CAUSE 61
winning of the nation's homes for Christ her Lord. That
one single aim was constantly before her, whether she
threw her energies into combating influences perilous
to the faith of little children, or into a strong resistance
to every attempt at loosening the tie of marriage.
It was in this latter direction that her chief efforts had
been directed during the last year that she was Central
President, and her retirement in no way lessened the
zeal with which she resumed them as soon as she was
able to do so, after her husband's death. She was ill
for some time during that spring of 1910, " and I remember
well " — her daughter writes — " how eagerly, even in her
illness, my mother would look daily for the reports of the
workers who were collecting signatures to the Mothers'
Union protest against the proposed 4 facilities for Divorce,'
and would add the numbers, day by day, to those already
A visit from Lady Horatia Erskine, early in the year,
touched Mrs. Sumner deeply in its double purpose, which
was to express the heartfelt sympathy of the Mothers'
Union in the sorrow of their Foundress, and also to keep
her in touch with the progress of the movement she had
herself initiated in resistance to the proposed alterations
in the Law of Divorce.
Events moved rapidly that spring, in preparation
for the Royal Commission on Divorce which was to be
held; and under the wise and courageous leadership of
the new Central President — the Dowager Countess of
Chichester — the corporate efforts started by Mrs. Sumner
were effectually developed, and the Mothers' Union was
able to stand forth before the world as a strong and
united body of Christian women, resolute to uphold the
sanctity of marriage against all attacks. The line taken
by the Society as a whole, and the methods of work
employed, are matters for the Mothers' Union History,
62 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
and are dealt with there (Chapter II). What neither that
nor any other record can tell is the part played by Mrs.
Sumner's influence, and her prayers, in all those strenuous
efforts and difficult deliberations with which she identified
herself as wholeheartedly as when her own hand had been
at the helm.
"We are working our hardest against divorce," she
wrote to one friend, ending, characteristically : " God
bless us all, and inspire us mightily ! "
Her pen was as busy as ever, as the packets of answers
to her letters show; some from the M.P.s to whom she
wrote personally ; some from the highest leaders in Church
and State. The letters she received from many of the
Bishops bear striking witness to the value in which they
held the work which the Mothers' Union was able to do
in defence of the sanctity of marriage. Requests occur
frequently for more copies of the leaflets sent, with a view
to their circulation among the clergy.
The 7th of June, 1910, was the day fixed for the
examination, at the Royal Commission on Divorce, of
the three witnesses chosen to represent the Mothers' Union,
and when the time of this very trying ordeal arrived, they
knew that the mother-heart of their Foundress was lifted
up in prayer for them.
Mrs. Sumner's own view of the position of the Mothers'
Union in this matter is summed up clearly and completely
in the following brief statement* : —
" We, as Christian women, must recognise the fact that
we can, with the help of our husbands, and by our mutual
example and influence, resist and overcome the present attack
on Marriage. This we set ourselves to do, as the first object of
the Mothers' Union. We hold that marriage is indissoluble,
and that children, be they few or many, are an heritage and
a gift that cometh of the Lord."
* From a paper on Marriage which she wrote for Mothers in
THE GREAT CAUSE 63
Those were the general principles for which the
Foundress of the Mothers' Union unwaveringly stood,
and in defence of which she was bold to call upon the
support of all Christian women whom she could in any
manner reach, by her words, her influence, or her prayers.
" God only knows how earnestly I entreat the united
prayer and help of every true-hearted wife, especially of every
member of the Mothers' Union, for this ' first object ' of our
Society, because the issues of our national life, and the religious
future of the English-speaking race, are formed in the homes,
and founded on Christian marriage. Every wife and mother
in the land can work marvels in her own home, for her husband
and children, and thus win the eternal gratitude of the age
in which she lives."
The manner in which these marvels were to be wrought
in married life was quite clear to Mrs. Sumner. Prayer
was, of course, the first essential, and silence the second.
It is entirely characteristic of her method of approach
to every problem, that side by side with her widest appeals
to general principles she places a simple counsel for daily
"It is a simple but fundamental rule for husband
and wife to maintain absolute silence with regard to
their mutual faults and failings. ... It is impossible
to suppose that any man or woman is perfect, and married
people must be absolutely loyal to one another; never
uttering a word to any human being as to each other's
imperfections. ... If there is a trial, or misunderstanding,
or bad habit, which shadows daily life, there is only one
Person in Whom the husband and wife may confide —
to Whom they may speak quite freely — and He is the
only Being Who can really help them in their difficulties.
He alone can rule hearts and lives — our Lord Jesus
Christ ! . . . . Our own married life is between ourselves
64 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
Homely and obvious counsel, it may sound ; " old-
fashioned," possibly, in its insistence upon the loyal
reticence in which the writer had been brought up; but
not necessarily on that account to be despised.
This subject was very specially before Mrs. Sumner's
mind throughout the closing years of her life. Her
husband's keen interest in education had kept her in
touch with the different problems which the new century
brought to the fore, and enabled her to grasp their
significance with a quickness which made it difficult to
remember her eighty years. She was among the foremost
to insist upon the need for united effort in fighting for
the children's right to Christian teaching in the day
schools, and in combating the evil wrought by organised
anti-Christian teaching on Sundays. And both of these
campaigns, she urged, were matters in which the Mothers'
Union was vitally concerned.
It is worth noting that a leaflet entitled "A Grave
Peril," which Mrs. Sumner wrote so far back as 1911,
on the subject of anti-Christian Sunday Schools, was
reprinted by the Mothers' Union in 1921 as being just
what was needed at the present time. It was written
with the two clear convictions in which the Foundress
of the Mothers' Union never wavered. The first was
that the Society could not possibly stand outside a battle
for the children's faith. In her own burning words: —
" In loyalty to God, and to our Saviour Jesus Christ,
we can never rest until this great sin and wrong to the children
of our nation (who are the future fathers and mothers) is
That was her first point, and the second was that
the vital part of the battle must be fought in the home,
and by parents themselves.
THE GREAT CAUSE 65
" Parents are the people who can resist the secularising
of our schools," she wrote. " I want an individual
propagandism in the bad homes, to win careless and
And again, in a letter to another friend: —
" I know the terrible anti-Christian teaching that is being
given, and that much is being done in many directions against
it, but I do implore those who desire to work against it
thoroughly to try to get hold of parents as well as children.
For the poor children go back from Christian teaching into
homes where all true Faith is treated with scorn and defiance ;
and it is in the home — by the example and teaching of parents —
that the character of children is formed, and their religious
faith is taught."
That was, unwaveringly, the line of her appeal, in
rallying her fellow-members in the Mothers' Union to
defend their children's faith against these growing
" Oh ! do get hold of the fathers and mothers ! "
she entreats in another letter, enclosing a prayer which
she herself, in her dauntless fashion, had prayed daily
for weeks and months — " even for two years " — for
different parents, " and it has been answered by absolute
change of heart and life. . . . The days we are living in
are very alarming, but God is with us, and in the strength
of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall overcome."
The next passage is from a letter which Mrs. Sumner
wrote to several Bishops during the autumn of 1910 : —
44 The root of a national reformation is in the hands of
parents and the Home — God's place for the character-training
of His human creatures .... I feel sick at heart that fathers,
as well as mothers, are not looked upon as the great character-
trainers of our race. Let us strive to get them, by the grace
of God, awakened in all homes, rich and poor, and we shall
strike at the very heart of irreligion and unbelief."
Letter after letter, to friends and fellow-workers, is
66 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
filled with the eager longing to rouse others to join in
the conflict to which she was giving herself unstintingly.
44 1 am living in prayer that we may gain support for our
efforts to raise the Christian standard of teaching in all schools
.... May God inspire us ! and let the one great object of
the Mothers' Union be to wake up conscience in fathers,
mothers and children, in every home, by ceaseless prayer
and intercession, self-sacrifice, and dedication to Christ our
As she wrote elsewhere, in words which might well
serve to sum up her own way of working : —
" Prayer and dogged work will win the day ! "
Side by side with Mr^. Sumner's appeals for concerted
action, in the matter of religious education, there went
always her practical counsels with regard to the mother's
own especial task of giving her little ones their first,
simplest and most important lessons in the Faith of
Christ. It was one of the subjects upon which she liked
best to speak ; drawing always upon the practical results
of her own experience.
The following passage is from her address to the
Central Literature Conference, in 1912: —
" I should also like to give a few simple words from my
44 How to teach religion to little children ? I have no
hesitation in giving the answer. It is by teaching them about
the Personality of Christ Himself. There is no fascination so
great to a child — as, indeed, to us all — as the Personality
of Christ. I shall never forget how my own children were
struck by it, when I did not think they could understand;
how almost at once they realised the love of our Blessed
Saviour, and the beauty of their consecration to Him in
Baptism; how intensely they loved the idea of being His
THE GREAT CAUSE 67
little soldiers and servants; how they felt that they had His
help in every moment of temptation and difficulty."
The aptitude of a little child's mind for religion was
a point upon which Mrs. Sumner continually insisted.
As she wrote elsewhere: —
" There is no greater mistake than to suppose that young
children cannot grasp the fundamental truths of the Christian
Faith. Every child seems to have a religious instinct, a desire
for God, and a conscience which is divinely constituted to
love the good and hate the evil. His faith is as strong an instinct
as his appetite. He naturally seeks for nourishment; he
naturally clings to and trusts his mother ; and he as naturally
desires to know and love his Father in heaven Who created
Him, His Saviour Who died for him, and the Holy Spirit
Who helps him to fight against all sin.
" But the Christian Faith rests specially on a Person, and
therefore, when instructing the child in the Creed of the
Christian, it is all important to give him the concrete, and not
the abstract, in religion.
" Parents will best learn how to teach and train their
children by themselves taking their place at the feet of the
Lord Jesus, and observing His attitude towards children —
His love, His tenderness, His sympathy for them."
From this thought of how parents may learn to teach
their children there followed the thought of the training
which they themselves should gain in the process.
" Who can doubt that teaching the true faith to our children
has a strong reflex action upon our own minds and characters,
and that as parents we should be better men and women if
we obeyed faithfully the command which has come down
to us through the ages from God Himself, to teach our children
the Faith handed down to us, ' that their posterity might
know it.' It is one of the most imperative of all religious duties
to hand down the knowledge of God's laws to the next genera
tion, and this is the bounden duty of fathers as well as mothers
— nothing can relieve them of it."
68 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
A PERSONAL REMINISCENCE.
In addition to all the writing and speaking which
Mrs. Sumner herself did in the great cause of Religious
Education, she was continually endeavouring to secure
addresses from other speakers versed in the subject. The
following reminiscence by Mrs. George Chitty, of a visit
undertaken for this purpose, gives us another glimpse —
and a very delightful one — into the quiet home life in
which Mrs. Sumner's untiring activities had their root and
their power: —
" In the early days of the War it fell to my lot to be sent
by the M.U. to Winchester, to help in a Conference on Home
Religious Training. Mrs. Sumner at once wrote to invite me,
stranger though I was, to stay with her, and of course I grate
fully accepted. The memories of that visit are still distinct
and vivid, for it has left an impression of absolute peace and
serenity which must, one imagines, have been entirely character
istic of that well-ordered home.
" I arrived in the morning, in order to have time to settle
the details of the meeting, but Mrs. Sumner at once with
gentle firmness insisted on rest and refreshment for her guest,
in a peaceful bedroom full of old-world books and pictures,
and looking out on the grey Cathedral. Later came a quiet
talk with the hostess, one of whose keenest interests for so
many years had been the very subject chosen for the afternoon's
" I can never forget the quiet intensity with which Mrs.
Sumner spoke, at that gathering, of the topics nearest to her
heart, nor the passionate longing of her voice as she urged the
paramount need of religion in English home-life, and begged
the younger workers to concentrate all efforts upon this.
" It was impossible to think of age and infirmity as one
looked at her kindling face or heard the vibrant tones of that
beautiful voice, or noted the gentle scorn with which she
repudiated (for herself) the need of any rest during a long and
busy day. She told me how she had trained her body to ' endure
hardship ' by early rising, cold baths, and strenuous physical
THE GREAT CAUSE 69
exercises, so that now in her old age she could stand with
impunity fatigue and exposure which many younger women
could not face.
" After the public meeting, we returned to the * haunt of
ancient peace ' in the Close, and again the feeling of restful
calm and serenity stole over one, remaining throughout the
" Mrs. Sumner played to us after dinner, and even
accompanied songs with much zest and vigour, and finally
she played the evening hymn for family prayers, when the
old servants filed into the drawing room, and one could dis
tinguish her voice, still sweet and true, as she led the singing.
" Next morning before the brief visit ended, I was almost
overwhelmed by her thoughtful kindness, and touched to
the heart by the solicitous care with which each little detail
which could minister to a visitor's comfort was personally
seen to and carried out. The scrupulous courtesy of an earlier
age seemed to surround one all the time, and in Mrs. Sumner
it was combined with a keen interest in the movements of the
day, and an eager desire to grasp all she could of the new
generation's outlook and hopes. Perhaps the most touching
incident of a deeply interesting visit was the loving kiss and
blessing given at parting to the younger woman whom she
so solemnly charged to carry on the great crusade for Christ
amongst the mothers of England."
THE CATHEDRAL BUTTRESSES
Along the outside of Winchester Cathedral, against
the South wall of the Nave, a row of massive stone
buttresses were built, some ten years ago, for the support
of the massive fabric. Some of these have been erected
as memorials to individual upholders of the Faith in
bygone years. Thus one bears the name of Ken, one
that of Keble, while yet another has been simply dedicated
as " a Thank-offering." Upon two more the following
inscriptions are engraved on brass plates : —
70 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
On the first:
"TO THE GLOBY OF GOD, AND IN MEMORY OF
GEOBGE HENKY SUMNEB, BISHOP OF GUILDFOBD,
THE GUIDE AND COUNSELLOB OF HIS WIFE, MABY ELIZABETH SUMNEB,
IN THE FOUNDING AND WQBK OF THE MOTHEBS' UNION,
THIS BUTTBESS IS GIVEN BY MEMBEBS OF THE MOTHEBS 5 UNION
THBOUGHOUT THE BBITISH EMPIBE :
On the second:
" TO THE GLOBY OF GOD AND IN GBATITUDE TO
MABY ELIZABETH SUMNEB, FOUNDEB OF THE MOTHEBS' UNION, A.D. 1885,
THIS BUTTBESS IS GIVEN BY MEMBEBS OF THE MOTHEBS 5 UNION THBOUGHOUT
THE BBITISH EMPIBE, IN BECOGNITION OF HEB WOBK FOB THE
SANCTITY OF HOME UFE. A.D. 1912."
The idea of giving one buttress, as a memorial to Bishop
Sumner, was started soon after his death, and was taken
up so eagerly by members of the Mothers' Union in all
parts of the world, that at the end of the year set for the
collection of the sum it was found that enough had been
contributed to pay for two buttresses instead of one.
The total amount subscribed reached finally a total of
about £1250, out of which, after both buttresses had
been paid for, there still remained a sum of some £250,
which was handed over, by Mrs. Sumner's desire, to the
central funds of the Mothers' Union, to be used in promot
ing the work Overseas.
Mrs. Sumner was profoundly touched by this beautiful
memorial to her husband's memory, and to the work she
had been allowed to do for God, in the nation's homes.
The sight of the buttresses never failed to thrill her with
pleasure and thankfulness, and it was from the depths
of her heart that she wrote, in her personal letter of grati
tude to " the Presidents, Vice-Presidents, and Enrolling
Members, and all Members or Associates of the Mothers'
Union who have so generously given two of the Buttresses
supporting the South wall of Winchester Cathedral " : —
" It is quite impossible to express in words my profound
gratitude to you for a Memorial which is a mark of your personal
THE GREAT CAUSE 71
love and sympathy in my life-work, and also of your recogni
tion of my Bishop's guidance and support in it.
To me, the Memorial represented by the two Buttresses
which are helping to strengthen our beautiful Cathedral will
always be inexpressibly precious — assuring me as it does that
you are heart to heart with me in the aims and objects of the
Mothers' Union, and in the efforts we are making to win every
Home in the Empire for God.
No day of my life passes without earnest prayer for every
Member of the Mothers' Union.
Although I cannot hope to see you all and thank you
personally for your great and valued gift, will you accept this
letter as a proof of my love and gratitude, and I look forward
to the day when, God grant, we may all meet in the Perfect
A NORTHERN TOUR.
It is amusing to come across one of the letters received
by Mrs. Sumner in these years, from an old gentleman
from whom she had sought to gain some active support
in her labours, pleading as the reason for his refusal the
fact that he had " now joined the Octogenarian Club "
and might therefore be excused from any fresh exertions.
The Foundress of the Mothers' Union assuredly did not
regard her eighty-four years in that light when she set
off, in 1913, for one of the longest and most important
'* speaker's tours " she had ever made. The sundering
of the beloved home-tie enabled her to extend her absence
longer than she could formerly have done, and the passing
of the years only fired her with fresh ardour to do her
uttermost in the great cause of winning for God the
Her visits were in the North of England, and were
a wonderful series of personal triumphs at the close of
her career as a speaker. In Southwell, in Newark — where
she addressed a large Sunday afternoon gathering of men —
72 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
Durham, Sunderland, and all the other northern towns
at which she spoke, it was the same story. Crowds of
women — often of men also — thronged about her, not
only in the halls where she spoke, but outside also, in
the street as she came out, and along the road as she
drove away ; eager to get a touch of the hand if possible,
or at least a word, a look, a smile.
The climax was reached at York, where the Mothers'
Union Conference was held that year, and where thousands
of members of the Union congregated therefore, during
the week. On the day of the large meetings held
simultaneously in different halls, Mrs. Sumner drove
from one to the other, to say a few words at each, and
all who witnessed her course from place to place agree
that it was like nothing so much as a royal progress.
That tour was Mrs. Sumner's farewell to the North;
indeed it was the end of any extensive journeying. Next
year came the Great War, with its disorganisation of
travelling, as of graver matters, and Mrs. Sumner's
external activities gradually lessened, although not her
zeal for the cause.
Those years brought personal sorrows also to her,
in the death of her two sons-in-law. Canon Gore-Browne
died in 1914, and Sir Arthur Hey wood in 1916. Lady
Heywood's health, too, was a great anxiety to her mother,
and prevented their meeting as often as they both desired.
Mrs. Sumner had, however, the comfort of frequent visits
from her younger daughter, and from her son, Mr. Hey wood
Sumner, and his wife.
She still carried on as much work as she could do for
the Mothers' Union, but in 1916 she resigned the office
of Diocesan President, which she had held for thirty
years. At the July meeting of the Winchester Diocesan
THE GREAT CAUSE 78
Council of the Mothers' Union, Mrs. Sumner announced
her resignation. She felt, as she said, " that the time has
come for a younger hand to guide the helm in this great
Diocese, although I lose none of my interest in the work
of the Mothers' Union, which I started with the approval
and help of my beloved husband, the late Bishop of
Guildford, in 1885
" . . . . I have received a most kind letter from the
Bishop of Winchester, which has greatly comforted me in
the sadness which I naturally feel in resigning my position
as President in this Diocese, but I still hope to be of use
to my beloved Mothers' Union in many ways.
" I do pray that it may ever be treated as a religious
Society, its great object being to recognise the Home as
a sacred Institution ordained by God. . . .
" . . . . Since the year 1885 the greatest object of my.j
life, outside my family, has been to try and win parents ]
and homes for God and our Lord Jesus Christ, and that
every father and mother should know the Creed of the
Christian, and live it in prayer and self -dedication of
heart and soul, according to the Divine Prayer: —
" O Lord, fill me with Thy Holy Spirit,
For Jesus Christ's sake. Amen."
Numberless expressions of affection and regret, needless
to say, reached Mrs. Sumner from the friends and fellow-
workers to whom her resignation was a great and personal
loss, voicing in different forms the thoughts contained
in the letter from the Bishop of Winchester: —
" Farnham Castle,
July 5th, 1916.
My dear Mrs. Sumner,
I shall not trouble you with many words ; but I cannot
let your memorable reign as President, and Inaugurator, of
our Diocesan Mothers' Union end without a word of respect
and gratitude and affection.
74 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
The life of our Church has been witness — if man may
judge — of no steadier, more faithful, more strenuous efforts
to help its service to God and man ; no steadier, and very few
You have set up a standard before English folk — Church-
folk especially — of what Home Life should be ; of its potencies
and resources for good ; of the need and duty that we should
not only do our several individual duties with regard to it, but
that it should be a matter of our united effort to witness to its
ideals and responsibilities and to warn of the dangers to which
it is exposed.
And through sunshine and shadow, with spirit unbroken
by sorrow and loneliness, you have consecrated the gifts of
speech and influence and energy, with which God endowed
you, to an unflagging service which has been an astonishment
and an example to us all.
The work is now established: I hope that through and
after the National Mission it may enter upon a new period of
even wider life and energy.
Believe me, with our united love and respect, and with
the prayer that God may give you the Blessing of Peace.
Yours very sincerely,
"THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMETH "
"A little longer yet — patience, beloved ! —
A little longer yet ere Heaven unroll
The glory and the brightness and the wonder,
Eternal and divine, that wait thy soul."
A YEAR after Mrs. Sumner's retirement from the
Winchester Presidentship she made one more
journey to London, to take part in a very simple
ceremony of very deep significance. This was the opening
and dedication, on the 6th of June, 1917, of the first
" Mary Sumner House," to be not merely the central
office, but the home of the Mothers' Union; a mother
house, to which all hearts could turn, and where all would
be remembered in the prayers offered daily in the little
A simple and homely house it is, in the quiet " Dean's
Yard " that is part of Westminster Abbey's precincts,
so that in this first home of its own, as in the Close at
Winchester, the Mothers' Union has been associated with
one of the churches most closely linked with the life and
history of the Nation. This is not the place in which to
enter into the details of the whole great scheme whereof
that Westminster house was to be dedicated as the first-
fruits. Such matters belong to the history of the Society
rather than of its Foundress, and are there dealt with as
fully as may be. What no history can record are the
innumerable gifts and sacrifices, great and small, which
had gone to make possible the planning and achievement
76 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMMER
of the first Mary Sumner House, under the wise and
untiring leadership of Mrs. Wilberforce as Central
It was a happy coincidence that the friend who had
been so closely associated with the beginning of Mrs.
Sumner's public life should be linked, in a very special
sense, with its close. As Central President of the Mothers'
Union, Mrs. Wilberforce had been able to keep its
Foundress in close personal touch with the details of the
new venture, and there is a singular fitness in the fact
that to her pen we owe the account, given a little farther
on, of the actual opening ceremony.
It was a long time since Mrs. Sumner had been to
London, but nothing would keep her away from the new
Home when the 6th of June arrived, and Mrs. Gore Browne
tells us how thoroughly her mother enjoyed taking
once more the familiar journey from Winchester. Her
88 years had not destroyed her keen and ready interest
in her surroundings.
" It was wonderful to see her quick notice of the
changes made by the War, and her pleasure in again
passing through the well-known stretch of country
between Winchester and London. For some time past
her thoughts and prayers had been filled with the thought
of the Dedication, and she would not have missed it for
the world. Again and again, as we took our way to
Westminster, I saw her lips moving in prayer, and could
even catch a word sometimes of praise or thanksgiving."
The arrival at the Mary Sumner House was purposely
made some time before the opening ceremony, so as to
give time for quiet and rest. The large Annual Meeting,
which was being held that afternoon at* Chelsea, had
carried off most of the staff, as well as the members of
Council, so the house was nearly empty when Mrs. Sumner
"THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMETH " 77
and her daughter entered it. Mrs. Woodward, who
received them, suggested a little rest in a quiet room where
tea was prepared ; but that, the Foundress of the Mothers'
Union said gently, must not be the first thing she did.
" I have heard, my dear, that there is a chapel in
this dear house," she said, with her radiant smile. " I must
go there, first of all."
To the chapel, accordingly, she was conducted before
she would look at anything else, and, walking forward
alone to the step before the little altar, she knelt there for
a while in silence, her face uplifted in communion with the
Lord to Whom her whole heart was going forth in prayer
and thankfulness. The light of His Presence shone in her
eyes and in her smile when she rose presently and said
very quietly, as she left the chapel:
" I have been praying for every one of my children,
all over the world."
THE OPENING CEREMONY.
Short account by Mrs. Wilberforce.
" June 6th, 1917, must ever be a memorable day in
the history of the Mothers' Union. In glorious sunshine
it began for us under the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral, at
the Celebration of the Holy Communion wherein, through
Him Who gave Himself for us, we touch one another and
those already within the veil.
" In the early afternoon we gathered in the Chelsea
Town Hall for our Annual Meeting, which was followed,
at 5.30, by the long-looked-for event, the opening and
dedication of the Mary Sumner House.
" On our return from the Meeting it was a great joy
to find that our beloved Foundress had arrived, and she
became at once the centre of the many friends eager to
greet and welcome her. Neither the journey from Win
chester nor the heat of a midsummer day seemed tojiavej
T8 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
fatigued her, and she entered with all her old enthusiasm
into the proceedings which had brought us together. It
gave her unbounded pleasure that the opening ceremony
was to be performed by Princess Christian, Her Royal
Highness having graciously consented thus to show her
interest in the Mothers' Union, whereof she had long been
the Patron in the London Diocese. To Mrs. Sumner the
presence of one of Queen Victoria's daughters bore a
special fitness on that occasion, as linking the new enter
prise with the revered memory of the great Sovereign
who had been the Society's first Royal Patron.
" The Princess arrived with royal punctuality, and
was received by the Bishop of London, in Convocation
robes, together with our Foundress, myself as Central
President, the Vice-Presidents and the Central Secretary
(Mrs. Maude), the Dean of Westminster and the Hon.
Evelyn Hubbard. The brief opening ceremony took place
in the lecture room, where members of the Central Council
and other guests were assembled.
" It fell to my lot, as Central President, to begin with
an address of welcome to Her Royal Highness, in the
course of which I touched briefly upon some of the chief
purposes which we trusted to see fulfilled in the Mary
Sumner House: —
" The work of the Mothers' Union has hitherto been entirely
concentrated upon efforts to raise the religious and moral tone
of the homes of our country ; but now, when the country is
passing through such a crucial time, and when young children
must be looked upon as the most valuable asset of the Empire,
we feel it an imperative duty to utilise our large organisation
in promoting the physical as well as the spiritual and moral
welfare of mothers and children.
" In moving into this House we gain the much required
additional space for our Central Offices, and shall endeavour to
combine the three-fold nature of our work by providing
lectures and instruction on religious and moral education,
"THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMETH " 79
character training and moral instruction, and other subjects
relating to the vocation of motherhood in its many aspects.
" The presence of your Royal Highness to-day is an honour
which the whole Mothers' Union will deeply appreciate. Not
in Great Britain alone, but in many countries Overseas, motherly
hearts will rejoice to know that the daughter of the great
Queen-Mother, Queen Victoria, has shown this practical
interest in the Mothers' Union.
44 . . . . We are much stimulated in our work by the noble
example, in all appertain ing to home life, set by our King and
Queen, and we especially cherish the memory of the words
spoken by His Majesty at the time of his accession to the
throne — words which contain all that the Mothers' Union
stands for — 4 The foundations of national glory are set in the
homes of the people ; they will only remain unshaken while
the family life of our race and nation is simple, strong and
" Princess Christian then performed the simple cere
mony of declaring the Mary Sumner House open, and the
Bishop of London proposed a vote of thanks to Her Royal
Highness, and spoke briefly of the national importance
of the work of the Mothers' Union. Mrs. Sumner followed
his words of sympathy and encouragement with her own
expression of gratitude, and when he called upon the
* Mother of the Mothers' Union ' to second the vote, she
stood before us in the erect, simple attitude we knew so
well, and spoke her heartfelt thanks to the Princess, and
her own joy in being present on an occasion so full of
significance to herself and to the work she loved. Her
voice seemed to ring out with all its old force and beauty
as she ended in the name of all her fellow- workers : —
" We pray earnestly that our Heavenly Father will pour
out His Holy Spirit daily and hourly, for Jesus Christ's sake,
on all the work and workers in this House, for the spreading of
our Christian Faith in the hearts and homes of our beloved
Nation and Empire."
80 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
"Then followed the short service of Dedication in
the chapel, closed by a prayer of benediction from the
Bishop, that God would grant to ourselves and our fellow-
workers courage, wisdom, strength and love to do His
will ; and after that the Bishop visited each room in the
house, blessing its special work and those who were
carrying it forward.
" It was indeed an occasion of deep rejoicing and
humble thanksgiving to Almighty God, and our hearts
were full when the tune fcr farewells arrived. Dear
Mrs. Sumner, alert and vigorous as she had been at the
beginning, took leave of each one of us individually, and
expressed repeatedly her joy at having been present.
We accompanied her, with her daughter, to the carriage,
and stood watching as she drove away, turning to wave
her loving adieux again and again so long as she was
in sight." E. W.
A FEW LETTERS.
There Mrs. Wilberforce's narrative ends, but I have
her leave to complete it with a few sentences from a
letter which she wrote next day to Mrs. Sumner.
44 .... It just put the coping-stone on everything to have
you with us yesterday ! and we all so rejoiced both to see and
hear you. We have had a very happy, useful week, and we
thanked our Heavenly Father for all His goodness to us, in
the little chapel this morning. His Banner of Love has been
and, I trust, ever will be over us.
" May God ever bless and keep you, our beloved Foundress."
Mrs. Sumner's letter I give in full: —
"The Close, Winchester,
Dearest Mrs. Wilberforce, June 7th, 1917.
I should like to express my deep thankfulness to God,
and then to you, my beloved President, and to our fellow-
members and friends, who have helped hi founding the ' Mary
"THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMETH " 81
Sumner House,' which has now been so graciously opened by
H.R.H. Princess Christian and solemnly consecrated to the
work of the Mothers' Union by the dear Bishop of London.
May the blessing of God Almighty rest upon it for evermore.
May the mothers of our nation be impressed with their
great responsibility. May all their children be dedicated as
4 Soldiers of Christ ' in Holy Baptism and trained by the
example of Christian parents in the homes, to the glory of God,
and to the blessing of our great Empire.
May I add a word of profound gratitude that my name
has been allowed to be on a building which represents one of
the great objects of my life, in which my beloved husband,
the late Bishop of Guildford, always gave me such constant
help and inspiration ? I pray earnestly that our Heavenly
Father will pour out His Holy Spirit, daily and hourly, on all
the work and workers in this House for the spreading of the
Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in the family life and homes of
With renewed thanks to you and to all who are helping us,
I am your very affectionate,
MARY E. SUMNER."
A few passages may fitly be added from Mrs. Sumner's
letters to other friends: —
" I was so deeply thankful to be at the Dedication of our
dear House yesterday ; and it was all so beautifully arranged
and full of deep feeling, and the dear Bishop's solemn Benedic
tion will be a lasting Blessing on us all. ... My heart is so on fire
for a mighty Blessing on this House now given to the service
of our Heavenly Father, our precious Saviour and the Inspira
tion of the Holy Ghost."
" Oh, may God in His Love, crown our new House with
countless Blessings ! It is very near my heart, and fills me
with thankfulness. I long to know how yesterday was con
sidered by many of my dear fellow Mothers' Union members,
for it was indeed an appropriate time to dedicate it in solemn
prayer to our Heavenly Father and our Precious Saviour that
it might be filled with the Divine Spirit ! "
82 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
44 .... All concerning the new House fills me with profound
gratitude, and God grant it may ever be carried on in a Spiritual
Life to the Glory of God, and our Blessed Saviour Jesus Christ,
and that every heart working hi this House may be inspired
by the Holy Spirit, full of love and zeal."
THE MINISTRY OF PRAYER.
Very characteristic these letters are, not only of
Mrs. Sumner's interest in the house bearing her name,
but also of the burning intensity of the prayers wherein
that interest found expression. It was the same with
all parts of the work of the Mothers' Union. The more
restricted its Foundress came to be in the matter of active
efforts, the more continuously did she live in and for
the work of intercession.
That was her own phrase, used constantly, and with
literal truth. " I am living in daily and earnest prayer
about my beloved Mothers' Union," she wrote to one
friend, and to another: —
" It is so wonderful to realise how our Mothers' Union is
growing all over the world, in many countries, in answer to
constant and earnest prayer ! I live in such earnest prayer
about it all. . . ."
The next few passages are taken from different letters
written by Mrs. Sumner in these latter days, and they
all reveal the same triumphant faith in the power of
prayer, and the same untiring zeal in its practice.
" .... I and a certain number of earnest friends are praying
daily for our present Government. ... I want to live in prayer
" . . . . We are living in anxious days, and we believe that
our duty is to live in prayer."
" .... I am laid up with a severe cold, but I can do many
things still, with the help of my God. ... It does so cheer me
to feel your great enthusiasm for our efforts to win the Nation,
"THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMETH" 88
heart and soul, to God. I had the following striking and solemn
prayer given me on Easter morning : —
" 4 All this day, O Lord, let me touch as many lives as
possible for Thee; and every life I touch do Thou by Thy
Spirit quicken, whether through the word I speak, the prayer
I breathe, or the life I live. In the Name of Jesus. Amen. 1 "
" . . . . May God inspire us ! and let the one great object
of our Mothers' Union be to wake up conscience in Fathers
and Mothers and children, in every home, by ceaseless prayer,
intercession, self-sacrifice, unworldliness and dedication of life
to Christ our Lord."
" . . . . With prayer there will be no straining, no morbid
anxiety. Prayer brings Christ's influence. He knows and
understands, and, if we pray, He will give the needed patience
and strength. From prayer we shall derive confidence."
Prayer was indeed " the fountain of her inspiration
that lasted on, springing up still in that sunlit upper room
when the day for speaking was past."
I quote once more from the Bishop of Southampton's
memories of Mrs. Sumner,* in which he gives just a glimpse
of a visit to her in these latter days.
" She sat in her pleasant drawing room and spoke of her
own growing limitations in the work she loved. But only for
a moment. She passed on to the need and wondrous power
of intercession, and how, resting in that very room, she knew
what share she could take. She rose to her feet and standing
in the middle of the floor poured out a rapture of hope and
enthusiasm on the promises to prayer.
" So we left her ; the last memory is of one on her feet in
the sunlight, praising God "
" CONCERNING GRANDMOTHERS."
This ministry of prayer, to which Mrs. Sumner gave
herself so unremittingly in her old age, was the share
which she felt that all the older members of the Mothers'
* Winchester Diocesan Chronicle, October, 1921.
84 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
Union should specially take in its work. She had written
years ago on this subject, in a paper " Concerning Grand
mothers," * which it is interesting to compare with her
own practice. Only a few paragraphs can find space here.
" We are constantly asked to solve the problem which
seems to exercise the minds of some of the older members
in our Society, as to the value and position of grandmothers
in the national work of the Mothers' Union, and I should like
to show that their value and influence is strong, definable,
and all-important to the success of our efforts. . . .
" . . . . Let no one despise middle age or old age. If it is
stamped with a reflection of the Divine Life, it has a beauty
and an influence all its own. The power of the high-minded
grandmother who is consistent in her faith and practice, and
who has the courage of her opinions is greater than we can
conceive. . . .
44 The Mothers' Union is above all things a Prayer
Union. It was founded in prayer, initiated with prayer, built
up in prayer. The forces which are working and moving
throughout the length and breadth of the Mothers' Union
are alive through prayer. The daily united supplication rising
up into the ears of the Almighty Saviour from thousands of
hearts, in thousands of homes, is the secret of our strength,
of our marvellous success, for 4 He always wins who sides with
God.' Therefore prayer is the greatest power, for ' it moves
the hand that moves the world,' and older women — grand
mothers — even if they are invalids, are probably helping us
more than the most brilliant speakers and active workers
among the younger members, if they strengthen our work
* * * * * *
" If only we would expect great results and answers to
our prayers, we should win hundreds of hearts and homes
that now seem impossible, for the days of miracles are not
over, and who can tell the far-reaching impressions which are
made by older people, nearing the eternal world calmly, in
* Mothers in Council, 1903.
"THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMETH " 85
confidence, faith, peace, and beauty, with the halo upon them
of a life spent well and wisely, the retrospect of a perfect union
in married life, the faithful training of children, and of a home
ruled in wisdom and love. Such a life is an object lesson to
younger wives and mothers, and may stir them to go and do
likewise. Special honour should be given to age when it is
crowned with good works."
It was this intense belief in the power of prayer, and
in the vocation of old age to that especial ministry, which
led Mrs. Sumner to resist with all her might any proposals
as to a possible " age-limit " for membership in the
Mothers' Union. To one who brought forward such a
suggestion, in these later years, she wrote strongly: —
" I am afraid .... that you have hardly realised the
double basis of our Mothers' Union — Prayer and Work. The
grandmothers and great-grandmothers whom you mention
have more time in their old age to pray for 4 children and
children's children,' and we have always felt that these prayers
uphold and strengthen the younger mothers in their anxious
work of training their little ones, and that they bring untold
blessing on the whole Society.
" It would be a fatal weakness to oust these aged members,
and, speaking from personal knowledge of our members,
I know how enormously they value the great bond of union
" Mothers of all ages are needed to raise the spiritual life
of the country, and of course our motherhood does not cease
with age. . . . The grand work of Intercession can be better
carried out in the quiet of old age than in the rush of youth."
No one who knew Mrs. Sumner will dream that this
plea for the ministry of the older mothers meant any
disregard of the needs, and the value, of the younger ones,
who were always so near her heart ; but it is of interest,
in this connexion, to note that the very last leaflet she
wrote, in 1920,* had for its special object the enlisting of
* An Appeal to Educated Mothers,
86 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMMER
fresh supporters from the ranks of young mothers, for
the uplift of Christian motherhood.
44 There is special need for enlisting the interest and help
of the young mothers of to-day, for they have to meet the
many new problems both in religious and in social questions,
and their advice and co-operation is of the greatest use in
dealing with these difficulties."
In a letter of about the same date she says : —
" .... I am striving in prayer to awaken the conscience
of all young mothers to realise their great responsibility in
the gift, from Almighty God, of a little immortal soul. . . .
May God the Father and our Blessed Saviour hear our earnest
prayers, and pour a mighty spiritual power on all we are
striving to do for our beloved country."
THE 90TH BIRTHDAY.
Mrs. Sumner's 90th birthday was celebrated on
December 81st, 1918.
" Such a wonderful birthday ! " as she wrote to a
friend. " Letters, telegrams and cards of good wishes
from beloved relations, friends, and kind believers in my
Mothers' Union. Oh ! I do thank God ! and will you
pray about the longing so many of us feel, concerning the
entire conversion of hearts and lives to our Heavenly
Father and our Precious Saviour .... It will be so
lovely to meet in Heaven the dear friends who are now
giving their lives to God ! Pray for me, my dear friend."
A birthday message arrived from the Queen herself,
together with a signed photograph of Her Majesty; a
gracious remembrance, which Mrs. Sumner deeply valued.
The letters which reached her were from all parts, from
individual friends and from the Dioceses. From the
Winchester Diocesan Council of the Mothers' Union came
a specially personal expression of gratitude for " the
great work you have done for the mothers of the world.
"THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMETH " 87
We are proud to know that our Mothers' Union had its
inception in this Diocese."
From the Mary Sumner House the Central President
wrote : —
" How good God has been in sparing you to us through
these many years, to be such an inspiration to lead us
higher ! We thank Him, too, for making your eventide
so full of light."
THE LAST MEETING.
It was during the summer of 1919 that Mrs. Sumner
addressed her last meeting. She was staying at Botley
with her daughter, Mrs. Gore Browne, who invited the
neighbouring members of the Mothers' Union to tea in
her garden, after which Mrs. Sumner had promised to
speak to them.
She prepared beforehand, in her usual fashion, by a
quiet hour of prayer, and when tea-time came she went
among the guests, speaking individually to as many as
she could, and at the close gave one of her earnest, direct
addresses to them all together, as they sat in the garden.
The fact of speaking in the open air did not trouble her,
in spite of her 90 years, and every word could be hearcl
easily by all present.
THE NEW CENTRAL PRESIDENT.
A year later Mrs. Sumner was again staying with her
daughter when she received a visit from Mrs. Hubert
Barclay on the appointment of the latter to be Central
President of the Mothers' Union when Mrs. Wilberforce
found herself obliged to lay down the task. Of that
visit Mrs. Barclay herself wrote a short account, which
fittingly completes the story of Mrs. Sumner's life-work.*
* Reprinted from the Workers' Paper, September, 1921,
88 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
"Last summer, after having been appointed Central
President, I went to see her. She was not at the moment at
her beautiful home under the shadow of Winchester Cathedral,
but staying with her daughter at Botley, in Hampshire. She
welcomed me most sweetly, and at once asked me many
questions about the Mothers' Union. The whole note of her
talk struck me as being so loving, as though her heart was
overflowing with love for all the mothers, and she was keenly
interested in every detail of the work. She spoke as one who
knew and understood the difficulties of a mother's life, and
sympathized with every part of it. Her mind was wonderfully
clear and her beautiful face alight with keenness and emotion.
She repeated herself somewhat, as is the way of those whose
earthly life has been prolonged, and one sentence which she
repeated over and over again was a message — a personal
message to the mothers she loved so well.
" * Tell them ' — she said it earnestly over and over again —
* tell them that it is the first seven years of a child's life that
are so important. Tell them it is the first seven years.' She
saw so clearly that those are the years in which the seed is
sown in the fertile garden of a child's mind for good or ill, to
bring forth either wheat or tares.
" When we had talked for some time her daughter thought
fully suggested I should rest after my journey, and Mrs. Sumner
at once urged me to do so, adding, 'And while you are gone
I shall just sit and pray.' And so I left her engaged in holding
up the Mothers' Union and every member of it — its activities,
its difficulties, and its hopes before the Throne of Grace.
" That was her constant occupation.
*' The day will always remain in my memory, and I recall
so well how, during the train journey back to London, I thought
it all over. It is very seldom that any woman lives to see a
work she has been instrumental in starting go forward and
grow into a work of such magnitude as it was granted to Mrs.
Sumner to see in the Mothers' Union and its steady growth
from such a small beginning until it became as it is now, a
world-wide organization of national importance, and I asked
myself, ' How was it ? '
"THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMETH" 89
" I am certain the answer is this — How wonderfully God
can and does use a wholly consecrated Hie. A life which knew
one purpose, and one purpose only, namely, to do His will —
to be used by Him — emptied of self and self-seeking to live
for Christ, by' Christ, and through Christ. Her heart was filled
with love for her Master, and by the power of His Holy Spirit
she radiated love — God's love — on all those with whom she
came in contact."
THE JOURNEY'S END.
Mrs. Barclay's visit took place in the summer of 1920,
and soon afterwards Mrs. Sumner was home again under
the shadow of her beloved Cathedral, rejoicing in its services
so long as she could share in them. As she wrote to a
friend at Christmas -time : —
" I am so enjoying my Cathedral Services, and the
dear family around me."
The love of her children, always so intensely precious
to her, came to be more than ever her comfort and delight
as the passing months increased the burden of her weak
ness. Her letters continually expressed the thankfulness
she felt in the exceeding happiness of having " my beloved
son and his wife," or " my dearest Loulie " with her.
It was a. great grief both to herself and to Lady Hey wood,
her elder daughter, that the failing health of the latter
made it impossible for her to be much with her mother
during these last days.
The affection of other relatives, and of the many
friends who gathered round her, Mrs. Sumner also prized
with all her old eagerness of appreciation, and she would
often speak of the debt cf gratitude which she owed to the
members of her household. All of them had lived with
her for very many years, and they loved to serve her with
care and devotion that she appreciated and valued to the
full. The evening shadows gathering round that quiet
home could not quench the light that glowed within it.
90 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
Never, even in its brightest days, had it been more truly
a " home of peace and love " than through those months
of deepening silence, when all who lived in the house, or
came to it, found happiness in tender ministry to her who
had ministered so freely and so lovingly to others all
Mrs. Sumner's wonderful vitality enabled her to carry
on the ordinary routine of life until the summer of 1921.
She took the most intense interest in all the arrangements
for the Mothers' Union Conference held in Chester early
in June, and was kept closely in touch with the details
of these by Mrs. W. H. Johnson, the Diocesan President
for Chester. The last two letters penned by her hand
related to the Conference, and to her constant prayers
for God's blessing upon it. To Mrs. Johnson she wrote
just beforehand, on May 30th: —
44 .... I shall indeed pray for a great blessing on all the
meetings which will be held May God grant a great blessing
on all the efforts that are being made to help forward the
Christian life of our land.
44 1 am so glad there is to be a joint meeting for husbands
and wives; we do so want to get the help of husbands and
To Mrs. Hubert Barclay, as Central President, she
wrote, on June 9th: —
44 1 am delighted to get the telegram with the kind messages
from the Council and Mass Meeting. I do indeed trust that
every blessing has been given to the great gathering at Chester,
and that a great increase in the Mothers' Union work will be
44 How I wish I could have been with you all during this
week ! "
She had been with us, we knew well, every day in
thought and prayer, and when the week was over she made
her offering of thanksgiving, on beliajf of the whole
"THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMETH " 91
Mothers' Union, on Sunday in the Cathedral. That was
the last time she entered its doors in life, and it was an
occasion full of joy for her, accompanied as she was by
her son and one daughter and other dear ones, and with
her heart full of rejoicing in the great things God was
accomplishing in and through her " dear daughters
throughout the world."
Of the eight weeks that followed Mrs. Gore Browne
has told all that the outside world can ask to know, in
a brief reminiscence from which I have her leave to quote.
" As long as possible my mother used to get up and be
dressed, and come to the drawing room in the course of
the morning, and I would read aloud to her, from the
Bible, very often, or from some favourite book on the
subjects nearest to her heart. Sometimes she would go
to the piano, and she still played so beautifully, but only
by heart, the same things over and over again, but very
pretty one?, and she would improvise on them.
" Often she liked us to have prayers together, and
would ask for our Mothers' Union prayer, and sometimes
she would sit quietly praying in her arm-chair. She
would lift up her hands very often in an attitude of
supplication, and now and then held them out, as though
presenting something to God.
" ' What would you like ? ' I used to ask her some
times, and the answer always was, ' Prayer ! prayer ! '
She constantly repeated the lines —
4 Jesu, my Lord, I Thee adore,
O make me love Thee more and more ! '
She always liked our hymn at prayers in the evening to
have something about Jesus Christ in it.
" She loved walking in the garden, as long as it was
possible, with me, or with her devoted maid, enjoying
her flowers and talking to the gardener, who, like every
92 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
one else about her, was always anxious for the chance of
serving her in any way.
" In the evenings she would get me to play or sing to
her, or she would go herself to the piano, and play the
familiar tune of ' Abide with me,' singing to herself the
verse, 4 Hold Thou Thy Cross ' She seemed to
find such joy and comfort in it.
*' She never went to the Cathedral again after Sunday,
June 12th. On the Tuesday following she was dressed
to go to the midday Celebration, as usual, but was not
well enough to do so, and after that Canon Vaughan
used to come and give her private Celebrations. This
was her great comfort.
" When most people would have been staying in bed,
or just moving to an arm-chair, my mother kept on
getting up after breakfast, and dressing. Towards the
end, however, the great heat tried her greatly. For
some time she used to beg the doctor to make her strong
and well, for 4 1 want to begin to work again,' she said ;
but as weakness and breathlessness increased, she begged
us to pray that she might die."
So the hot days of July passed by in the quiet house,
and early in August the end was drawing near.
" On the morning of Tuesday, August 9th, we had
thought the end was coming, when, as we stood round
her, suddenly her eyes opened. A lovely smile lit up
her face, and she looked radiantly out towards the window,
while her eyes simply seemed to flash. This lasted about
a minute, and then she closed her eyes, and drooped her
head, but in another little space the same thing happened
" She had four or five of these wonderful visions, and
we who watched her longed to know what it was that
she was allowed to see, Did her eyes indeed ' behold the
"THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMETH" 93
King in His beauty ? ' or was some glimpse vouchsafed
to her of those whom she had ' loved long since, and lost
awhile ? ' We could not tell, and her dear voice was
silenced; only we knew, by that wonderful light on her
countenance, that her visions filled her with the intensest
joy. Just once again her lips moved, and we caught the
whispered words, ' Abide — abide with me ! '
" After that she fell into a deep unconsciousness, from
which she only rallied once, for a second, when I told her
that Canon Vaughan had come to pray with her. She
just laid her hand on his arm to show how glad she was
" All through the next day we watched and prayed
beside her, but she could no longer give any sign of re
sponse. When Thursday morning came, she opened her
eyes for a second, just once more. That was at about
8 o'clock, and then the end came very soon. I held her
dear hand in mine, and felt the pulse growing weaker
and weaker, as her breathing grew quiet and faint. And
so, very gently, and in perfect peace, she passed to her
eternal rest, and we thanked God for giving her the
AFTER THE HARVEST
•' . . . . Others shall
Take patience, labour, to their heart and hand
From thy hand, and thy heart, and thy brave cheer,
And God's grace fructify through thee to all."
E. B. BROWNING.
SO the long life of loving service was ended, and the
joyous spirit entered into the perfected bliss for
which she had waited, in the nearer Presence of the
Lord she loved. The thought of her exultant joy filled
the hearts even of her nearest and dearest, piercing their
sorrow as the sun's radiance shines from behind the
The old red house had grown suddenly empty and
desolate, yet from the hushed stillness that enwrapped it
there went up thanksgivings none the less heartfelt for
being blent with tears. And those thanksgivings were
echoed in ever-widening circles from thousands upon
thousands of hearts in the world outside. Seldom, surely,
can there have been a death more widely recognised as
the triumphant entrance into rest and joy well won.
Into fellowship, too ; the new and glorious fellowship
she had looked and longed for, with dear ones gone on
before, as also with the souls she had been privileged to
comfort, help and cheer. The vast assembly gathered in
the Cathedral, on August 15th,* for a last farewell was
as the shadowed counterpart of the rejoicing company
* An account of the funeral is given in Appendix I.
AFTER THE HARVEST 95
welcoming her into "that new life where partings are
no more." As one who was present wrote of it : —
" The funeral was very wonderful. The whole of England
seemed to acknowledge and rejoice in what she had done,
and in the Power in which she had done it. And also one could
not but feel the certainty of the rejoicing for her, and with her,
on the other side. Every one present must have felt the
tremendous possibilities of their human life when filled and
transcended by the life of the Spirit."
A letter written to Mrs. Sumner in her life-time voices
this same thought, which was present in so many hearts
at that service of thanksgiving and farewell : —
" I have always loved the thought that possibly, when
we are called hence, those whom we have helped on earth may
be allowed to take us before the Throne, and say gladly, 4 We
are here because of her.' If such a thing can be, I believe that
you will be surrounded by an almost countless crowd of those
who in this life have thanked God for having granted you the
inspiration, the zeal and the courage for your glorious work in
giving us the Mothers' Union."
The words call to mind a passage in one of Mrs.
Sumner's own leaflets* wherein she pictures the joy await
ing the mother who in her earthly home has striven to
make Christ's Presence a living power. To such a mother
she says, in words that might have been spoken to
" Your children will rise up and call you blessed. The
Lord Jesus will live in your heart, in your home. He will bless
your husband and your children, and when this short life is
over you will reap a great and everlasting reward. The King
of kings will take away the cross of all your earthly troubles,
and place a crown of victory on your head. He will wipe away
all tears from your eyes. He will say, ' Well done, good and
faithful servant ; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord ! '
* " An Appeal to Mothers."
96 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
" Yet a little while, and your children will follow you through
the Golden Gates into the Heavenly City. You will meet all
gloriously in your Saviour's presence, to be with Him for ever
more. You will bow your head before the Throne and say,
' Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me.' "
Such was the vision of motherhood which the Foundress
of the Mothers' Union had kept before her throughout
her married life, and it was the hope wherein her many
thousand " children in the Lord " could rejoice, for
her, after her death. As one Diocesan President wrote:
" For her — with all that it means of reunion with her best-
beloved, and to see Him Whose service she has so loved —
for her, we can only thank God, from the very depths of our
hearts. And for ourselves, I believe, one and all, we should
say, we may have made many failures in our duties to both
husband and children, but we should never have attained to
the measure of joy and victory that God has vouchsafed to us,
but for our beloved Mrs. Sumner, her teaching, her example
and wonderful inspiration."
The same note of thankfulness sounds in Archdeacon
Fearon's letter : —
" She has left a mark on the life of our English homes,
and indeed on the life of the Church, which will never be for
gotten. It is just fifty-three years since first I met her at
Farnham Castle, and ever since she has been a wonderfully
kind, good friend to me, as she has been to all who knew her,
and to thousands who did not. And she has left us all an
example and a help, for which we may with full heart thank
From the depths of full hearts the members of the
Mothers' Union have indeed joined in true thanksgiving.
As an Enrolling Member wrote on behalf of her whole
Branch, in words that express what many other letters
also said : —
" The name of our Foundress will ever be remembered
with reverence and great thankfulness. The beauty of her
AFTER THE HARVEST 97
life should inspire us to fulfil in ourselves, and in our Branches,
all that she worked and pleaded for in the long years of her
ministry at home and in far lands."
It is a temptation to go on quoting from the many
letters of love and recognition which Mrs. Sumner's death
drew from all classes of society, and from all parts of the
world. The Queen herself sent a personal telegram to
Mrs. Sumner's family, " to express to you Her Majesty's
great regret at hearing of your sad loss, and Her Majesty's
deep sympathy in your sorrow, which will be shared by
many." From Princess Beatrice also came an expression
of sympathy, and Her Royal Highness was represented
at the funeral. Diocesan Presidents, Presiding and
Enrolling Members, in all parts, sent personal letters and
corporate expressions of love and remembrance. Services
of thanksgiving and commemoration were held in all
parts of England; indeed, one might truly say, in all
parts of the world, so widespread was the desire to join
in doing honour to a life unreservedly offered and gloriously
used in God's service.
It would be easy to linger over the tributes to that
beloved memory, but it would mean necessarily much
repetition of the self-same thoughts, which may be well
summed up in the concluding sentences of the message
sent by the Scottish Mothers' Union : —
" We know how much we owed, in the early beginnings of
our Scottish Union, to Mrs. Sumner's wise and sympathetic
counsels, and those who had the privilege of knowing her
during her tour in this country can never forget the charm of
her gracious personality, and the inspiration of her God-given
*' God give her peace, and grant her hereafter to see the
fruit of her labours."
98 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
AFTER THE HARVEST.
So the joy of harvest goes up to heaven, and thanks
givings for a richly fruitful life are offered in abundance,
and after that — what next ? That is the question left
with those to whom Mary Sumner's life and work are
more than a matter for passing interest, admiration, or
even gratitude. In the words which Canon Vaughan
spoke of her from the pulpit in Winchester Cathedral : —
" Her real memorial will be found, not so much in the
marble monument covering her remains ; not so much in the
twin buttresses on the south side of the Cathedral, which
commemorate her work — not so much in the Mary Sumner
House at Westminster, established in her honour — as it will be
found in the Society that she founded, and in the grateful
hearts of thousands and tens of thousands of human beings,
* in lives made brighter by her presence.' "
" . . . . Mrs. Sumner was a Christian in the true meaning
of the word, i.e., one devoted to Christ. She lived in her Master's
presence. She was for ever holding communication with
Him. . . .
" The prayer of Frances Ridley Havergal was the prayer
of Mary Elizabeth Sumner: —
" Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments, and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them be
Swift and 4 beautiful ' for Thee.
" Take my voice, and let me sing
Always, only, for my King.
Take my love; my Lord I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store.
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee,"
AFTER THE HARVEST 99
" . . . . She, being dead, yet speaketh. And if she could
speak to us, in human language, she would, I think, call upon
us, men and women alike, to dedicate our lives to Him Who
is perfect Purity, and perfect Love."
After the harvest comes the new life that springs
from it. The golden grain is in-gathered, not merely to
be stored in safety, but to be made into new life-force to
give strength to those that shall sow and reap in days
to come. The fruits of Mrs. Sumner's labours are ours
to use as the seed of fresh ventures of faith in her own
great enterprise of winning for God the nation's homes.
In new ways, often, as new challenges confront us, and
new problems have to be dealt with, and fresh dangers
faced; yet with the one steadfast purpose that she set
before us, and in the one strength that never changes,
and can never fail. For it is the strength of a living
faith in the love of God, brought home to our hearts by the
power of the Holy Spirit, in the personal Presence of
Jesus Christ our Lord,
100 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
MRS. SUMNER'S FUNERAL, AUGUST 15TH, 1921.
(From an account given in the " Hampshire Chronicle")
THE funeral of Mrs. Sumner on Monday brought about a spectacle
such as, it might be claimed, has not been equalled in Winchester
on a similar occasion within living memory, a congregation of fully
4000 assembling at the Cathedral to testify their affectionate respect
for one whose life was devoted to so worthy a cause as that of up
lifting and bringing happiness to the home, both on its material and
spiritual side. Not only was the vast nave promptly filled, in the
aisles as well as its central portion, by people, very few of whom
were not wearing some outward symbol of mourning, but it became
necessary to occupy the few remaining seats in the choir, which
for a while had been reserved.
The following message had been telegraphed to Mrs. Gore Browne*
at the Close : — " A command by the Queen to express to you Her
Majesty's great regret at hearing of your sad loss and Her Majesty's
deep sympathy in your sorrow, which will be shared by so many. —
Those forming the congregation came from all parts, and were
very widely representative. In addition to a large number of relatives
and personal friends, and clergy from all parts of the Diocese, there
were, of course, literally thousands of members of the Mothers'
Union, representing Branches and Dioceses far and near. Mrs. Hubert
Barclay (Central President) represented the whole Society;
Mrs. Ernest Wilberforce (Vice-President, formerly Central President
of the M.U.) represented H.R.H. Princess Beatrice, Patron of the
Mothers' Union in the Isle of Wight. The Central Council of the Society,
and the Staff of the Mary Sumner House, were also represented.
Mrs. Sumner 's house in the Close was the one on the south-east
side (through the archway) of the Cathedral, and it was on the
* Lady Heywood, Mrs. Sumner's elder daughter, was unable to
take any part in her mother's funeral, owing to her own grave illness.
She died on August 18th.
APPENDIX I 101
gravelled space in front that the funeral procession was formed.
The body was borne on a wheeled bier. The coffin, of unpolished
English oak, with raised full-length Latin cross, had a plate inscribed :
Rest in the Lord.
MARY ELIZABETH SUMNEB,
Died August llth, 1921,
Aged 92 years.
A lovely floral cross from her children rested on the coffin — the
other wreaths, crosses, and flowers had been taken into the Cathedral,
where they were placed in front of and near the choir stalls.
There is little to record of the actual service beyond saying that
it was dignified in its simplicity, and outstanding was the hushed
and reverent demeanour of the vast concourse of people. The opening
sentences were said by Canon Vaughan and then the robed clergy
led the procession to the choir, an impressive feature being the
great number of family and personal mourners walking behind the
body, which, from the south door to the choir, was borne on the
shoulders of men. The ninetieth Psalm was chanted, and the hymns
were " Let saints on earth " and " How bright those glorious spirits
shine ! " the congregation taking full opportunity of joining in the
singing. The Dean read the appointed lesson and the prayers were
taken by Canon Braithwaite. The interment was in what is known
as the Water Close — the piece of ground adjoining the Cathedral
on its south-east side and overlooked by the windows of what was
Bishop and Mrs. Sumner's residence. The procession to the grave
side was in the same order and by the same way, the organist playing
Chopin's " Funeral March " as the body was borne out. The enclosed
ground is comparatively small and it was only possible to
accommodate those actually in the procession, but the pathway
leading through to Colebrook Street was lined with people. The
concluding portion of the service — generally spoken of as the com
mittal — was wholly taken by the Bishop of Winchester, who himself
held the pastoral staff as he said the final Benediction.
As would be expected, the wreaths and crosses from Mothers'
Union members in Dioceses and Branches were very numerous, and
the effect produced was extremely beautiful.
After the funeral a muffled peal (whole pull and stand) was
rung on the Cathedral bells, the tenor bell giving the years of
Mrs. Sumner's life.
102 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER
MRS. SUMNER'S WRITINGS
MRS. SUMNER'S largest works are the two books, "Our Holiday in
the East," and " Memoir of Bishop Sumner." Her lesser writings
were very numerous, and include many magazine articles and leaflets
relating to the work of the Mothers' Union, among which the
following are some of the most important. (They are not all in
What is the Mothers' Union ?
Speakers for the Mothers' Union.
An Appeal to Educated Mothers.
Union is Strength.
To a Mother after the Baptism of her Child.
Appeal to Husbands and Fathers.
Divorce : A National Danger.
A Welcome to a Bride and Bridegroom.
A Mother's Greatest Duty.
Responsibility of Parents.
A Few Words to Mothers of Little Children.
God's Call to Mothers.
Influence of Modern Society on Sunday in the Home.
Congratulations to a Mother on the Birth of her Child.
A Grave Peril.
A SHORT HISTORY OF
THE MOTHERS' UNION
T AM anxious to express our great gratitude to Lady
•*- Horatia Erskine both for having found time to put
together the valuable record from which this short
History of the Mothers' Union has been compiled and
also for so generously allowing us to make this use of
Lady Horatia was good enough to hand over her
manuscript to me, as Central President, some eighteen
months ago, and it was only owing to the immense
difficulties created by the War that it was not immediately
The delay, however, has not been without its
advantages, for it is singularly appropriate that selections
from this important record of the growth and development
of the Mothers' Union should appear with the Memoir
of its Foundress and first Central President.
From the very outset Lady Horatia Erskine was
Mrs. Sumner's loyal friend and trusted adviser and
together they laid the sure foundations of our great
Society as it now stands.
IT is hoped that the following short " History of the
Mothers' Union " — though much compressed from
the original record written by me — may afford some
general information and stir up the interest of present-
day workers and members, many of whom have known
nothing of its start beyond the fact that Mrs. Sumner
was its Foundress.
The framing of the Constitution and the subsequent
Incorporation of the Mothers' Union are land-marks in
its history which should be familiar to all its workers,
because the world-wide development of the Society in
later years is directly due to the careful and effective
organisation which was carried through in earlier days
with so much patient effort. The prayers which were
offered up for years were, we now know, both heard and
Mrs. Sumner has left us in the Mothers' Union both
a legacy and a trust. The former is her vision of all
Motherhood pledged to the service of our Lord Jesus
Christ; the latter, the obligation that rests upon each
successive generation of Christian Mothers to bring the
vision nearer to earth, and so to hasten the coming of
HORATIA E. ERSKINE,
Central President :
THIS short account of the growth and development
of the Mothers' Union as an organised Society
within the Church of England will begin with the
events which led to its Centralisation at Westminster
As has already been narrated in the first part of this
book, the Mothers' Union was given organisation in
Winchester Diocese shortly after Mrs. Sumner's address
to women at the Church Congress held at Portsmouth in
1885. Very rapidly other dioceses followed the lead given
by Winchester and they generally accepted the Winchester
organisation, though in time various differences of adminis
tration led to inevitable difficulties and confusion. Mrs.
Sumner was appealed to for advice from all quarters,
until it became quite impossible for her to deal single-
handed with all the problems and correspondence that
In 1892 it was found that the Mothers' Union was
working in twenty-eight dioceses and that it had 1550
branches and over 60,000 members, but so little cohesion
existed between the diocesan organisations that a recog
nised Central organisation with a President, Council and
Secretary became a matter of urgent necessity.
108 A SHORT HISTORY OF
It was no easy matter to bring co-ordination into a
society which had rapidly developed on lines of great
elasticity, and it took some four years of unceasing effort
on the part of certain leaders in the Mothers' Union to
form the Central Council, and to frame for the whole
Union a sound constitution which should define its
Objects and regulate its methods of organisation.
The first step was taken by the newly constituted
London Diocesan Council from which body, in 1892, an
invitation was sent to Mrs. Sumner to summon a Con
ference in the Church House, Westminster, to consider
the formation of a Centre. The one point then gained
was the decision that an Annual Conference should be
held in London, to form a meeting-point for all repre
sentatives of dioceses, to give opportunity for hearing
their opinions and to be the means of securing some better
methods of cohesion in the work. In this year, 1892,
many of the Bishops consented to become Patrons of the
In March 1893 a further step was taken, and all the
existing Diocesan Presidents of the Mothers' Union met
in London and resolved themselves into a COMMITTEE
OF PRESIDENTS, the embryo of the future Central Council.
The main duty of this Committee was to make arrange
ments for the Annual Conference. In 1894 the Com
mittee of Presidents decided to have a scheme prepared
for Centralisation, and at last, in 1896, the much desired
object was attained and a Central Council of the Mothers'
Union was formed. Its first duty was to pass a
Constitution which had been most carefully prepared
and to elect its Central President. It need hardly be
said that Mrs. Sumner, Foundress of the Mothers' Union,
was unanimously chosen. Mrs. Matthew was appointed
THE MOTHERS' UNION 109
Central Secretary and a locker was hired for her work at
the Church House, Westminster.
From this humble beginning sprang the present
Central Offices at 8, Dean's Yard, Westminster, with
their Chapel, Library and Lecture Room. The first Council
Meeting also gave its recognition to the title " The
Mothers' Union," agreed to the wording of the Three
Objects, and appointed and defined the duties of its
Difficulties soon had to be faced and dealt with by
the new Governing Body. At its second meeting strong
protests were made by the Scottish Presidents, and by
the Mothers' Union in New Zealand, against the Clause
in the Constitution which laid down that "All official
workers must be members of the Church of England or
Ireland." After long discussion it was decided to add in
brackets to the Clause, " This rule does not apply to
Scotland or the Colonies." This addition became known
as " The Bracket," and there will be reason to refer to it
again later on.
It was at this second Council Meeting that the Feast
of the Annunciation, March 25th, was appointed as the
Annual Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving for the Mothers'
Union, and all branches were asked to observe it as far
In the same year Her Majesty Queen Victoria graciously
granted her Patronage to the Mothers' Union, and was
pleased to accept a congratulatory address from the
Central Council on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee.
Two years later their Royal Highnesses the Princess of
Wales (Queen Alexandra) and the Duchess of York
(Queen Mary) also became Royal Patrons.
110 A SHORT HISTORY OF
In 1898 Miss Charlotte Yonge and Mrs. (afterwards
Lady) Jenkyns were made members of the Central Council
in recognition of their work as the respective Editors of
Mothers in Council and the Mothers 1 Union Journal.
The Journal, an excellent quarterly paper for Mothers'
Union members, had been started by Mrs. Jenkyns in
1888, and in 1891 Miss Yonge became the first Editor
of Mothers in Council, also a quarterly magazine, specially
intended for mothers of leisure and education.
In 1899 the first Mothers' Union Almanac was pub
lished. It met with instant success and 20,000 copies
were quickly sold. It was in this year that a small room
on the ground floor at the Church House was taken by
the Mothers' Union as a Central Office — a great advance
upon the locker in the basement of the building !
The year 1900 is marked by the first of the ^Annual
Services at St. Paul's Cathedral which have been held
there in almost unbroken succession ever since. The
years of exception are : 1913, when the Conference Week
proceedings were held in York; 1920, when a Consecra
tion of Bishops in St. Paul's necessitated a change of
arrangements and the migration of the Mothers' Union
to St. Margaret's, Westminster; and 1921, when an
invitation from the Diocese of Chester was accepted.
In 1901, the year of national mourning, the Central
Council of the Mothers' Union sent, on behalf of all the
members, an expression of their sorrow and sympathy
to the Royal Family on the death of Queen Victoria,
and a beautiful wreath to her funeral. In memory of
the Great Queen members of the Mothers' Union also
subscribed largely to the National Memorial and contri
buted £1270 to the Queen Victoria Nurses' Fund.
THE MOTHERS* UNION 111
During this year the Mothers' Union sustained a great
loss in the death of Miss Charlotte Yonge, who, as well
as being the Editor of its magazine, Mothers in Council,
had been one of its earliest Associates and best friends.
Bishop Sumner, by special request, then accepted
responsibility for Mothers in Council and continued to
be its Editor until 1908.
The year 1902 saw the starting of a Lending Library
in the Central Office — a somewhat modest beginning from
which has developed the large and valuable library of
many thousand volumes which members and friends of
the Mothers' Union can use and enjoy at the present time.
A small but significant change was made this year in
the wording of the Mothers' Union "Second Object,"
" Empire " being substituted for " England." This leads
to a short digression with reference to the rapid spread
of the Mothers' Union Overseas after its Centralisation
in 1896. Canada (London, Ontario) claims the first
Overseas branch of the Mothers' Union in 1888, Christ -
church, New Zealand, running it very close. But not
until the Society had Central organisation did the work
abroad spread widely on diocesan lines. At the time
when this history is being compiled, the Mothers' Union
Overseas forms a part of the organisation of eighty dioceses,
has some 800 branches and 10,000 members.
The Mothers' Union is now even wider than the British
Empire itself; many missionary dioceses have branches
in countries outside our King's dominions, such as China,
Japan, Persia, Madagascar, etc.
In 1903 the Central Council of the Mothers' Union
pledged itself to resist all attacks made upon the Marriage
112 A SHORT HISTORY OF
Laws of this country and entered upon a line of action
which has had no small effect upon our national life.
During the previous year, 1902, a " Protest " had been
made by the Mothers' Union, in connection with other
Women's Societies, against the Deceased Wife's Sister
Bill. In December, 1903, the Dowager Countess of
Chichester was elected as a member of the Central Council,
an event which also influenced very strongly the direction
of Mothers' Union activities for several years to come.
A Finance Committee was at this time appointed by
the Council, and the Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Hubbard became
the first Central Treasurer. The need of a reliable source
of income became felt as the obligations of the Mothers'
Union increased, but although three schemes for supplying
a settled income were discussed, none were entirely
approved and each in turn was abandoned. The finances
of the Union remained dependent upon the profits on the
sales of its literature and the voluntary contributions of
those who were then known as " Subscribing Members."
The year 1904 was one of great expansion in Church
work in South Africa, and, in connection with the Mission
of Help from England, the Mothers' Union sent out
Mrs. Arthur Philip as a Deputation Speaker.
Mrs. Evelyn Hubbard, to the regret of every member
of the Council, felt obliged to resign her post as Treasurer
in 1905 and was succeeded by Mr. John Hill.
During this year, with the help of Mrs. Russell, the
Mothers' Union began to work definitely among Maternity
and District Nurses and rules for their enrolment in the
Mothers' Union were drawn up.
The literature of the Mothers' Union began at this
time to receive greater consideration from the Centra]
Council, as the demand for Mothers' Union publications
THE MOTHERS' UNION 118
had caused them to become a valuable aid to the work
of the Society as well as a considerable financial asset.
It followed, therefore, that in 1906 a Literature Com
mittee was appointed by the Central Council with Lady
Horatia Erskine as the Chairman. It immediately began
to deal with many important matters and acted in 1907
in co-operation with the Bishop of London's Council for
the Home Training of Children in Religion, which eventu
ally resulted in the Mothers' Union establishing a Religious
Education Scheme and Book Supply of its own. The
Literature Committee on its appointment took charge
of the Library and of all the Mothers' Union publications.
It has now (1921) three Sub-Committees to deal with
different branches of its work — (1) the Publications,
(2) the Library and Book Supply, and (3) Education
Committees, each Sub-Committee having its own ap
In 1907 Mrs. Halliday was sent by the Central Council
on a tour to Australia and New Zealand, which lasted
several months and was the means of establishing the
Mothers' Union in many new dioceses. Mrs. Halliday
also visited Ceylon.
In 1908, at the invitation of the Congress of the
American Church, Mrs. Allen Whitworth visited the
United States and attended the Congress as a Mothers'
Union Deputation Speaker.
Information came this year from Australia that certain
dioceses had altered the wording on Members' Cards to
suit the views of Baptists. Mrs. Sumner, as Central
President, wrote firmly to protest, and to insist that the
Mothers' Union Card must be accepted as it stood, or
not at all. Mrs. Sumner's insistence upon infant baptism
as the Sacrament of entry into Christ's Church, and upon
114 A SHORT HISTORY OF
Holy Communion as the greatest privilege of the Christian
life, was the most marked feature of her teaching. From
the first certain Nonconformist applicants could be
accepted as members in the Mothers' Union, should they
desire to join, but the Sacrament of Baptism was always
made the first condition of membership — the Holy Com
munion as the highest " means of grace," was commended
to every confirmed member, and the acceptance of the
Godhead of Our Lord Jesus Christ was required equally
with Baptism as a condition of membership.
Mrs. Matthew, after twelve years of hard and con
tinuous work as Central Secretary, resigned her post in
the autumn of 1908 and Mrs. William Maude, London
Diocesan Secretary was appointed in her place. In
reviewing Mrs. Maude's work for the Central Mothers'
Union during the past thirteen years it is not possible to
express the deep appreciation which fills the grateful
hearts of all her fellow-workers in the Union, to whose
service she has devoted her life and her powers ever
since she became its London Secretary some twenty
1908 was the year of the great Pan Anglican Congress,
and in June the Central Council of the Mothers' Union
gave a reception at the Church House, Westminster, to
the Overseas Delegates and their wives. Later in the
year (October 28th) the first great Mass Meeting of the
Mothers' Union was held in the Albert Hall, Kensington,
with Archbishop Maclagan (of York) and the Bishop of
Stepney (now Archbishop of York) present and
Mrs. Sumner in the Chair. Although Mrs. Sumner was
in her eightieth year and had celebrated her Diamond
Wedding three months previously, she addressed the
huge meeting with all her accustomed eloquence, and
was received with the greatest enthusiasm. Mrs. Oluwole,
wife of the African Bishop of Lagos, spoke of the deep
THE MOTHERS' UNION 115
appreciation felt by her country-women in Western
Equatorial Africa for the Mothers' Union and of the help
it brought to Christian mothers of every race and colour,
uniting them in an unbreakable bond of fellowship and
Shortly after the great Mass Meeting Bishop Sumner's
failing health necessitated his resignation as Editor of
Mothers in Council, and Canon Nash, of Winchester, was
appointed in his place. Canon Nash proved a valuable
and faithful friend to the Mothers' Union in this capacity
and also in another way, as the next chapter will show.
In consequence of her advancing years, and the failing
health of her beloved husband, Mrs. Sumner felt early
in 1909 that the time for her resignation as Central
President would soon be at hand, and she asked that
members of the Council would elect one of their number
to succeed her. Several ladies were approached but no
one was willing even to be nominated as a candidate for
election. The actual resignation of the revered Foundress
of the Mothers' Union as the leader of its Governing Body
was announced on December 9th at the half-yearly Council
Meeting. Deep sympathy was expressed by all present
on receiving the sad news that Bishop Sumner was dying.
His death took place two days afterwards.
It was imperative that a new President should be found,
and the Dowager Countess of Chichester was prevailed
upon to accept the post. She became President without
a formal election, taking office on January 1st, 1910.
The last year of Mrs. Sumner's Presidentship had been
largely occupied with two matters, one of external, the
other of internal importance to the Mothers' Union.
The consideration of methods whereby the increasing
tide of divorce might be stemmed led to an important
116 A SHORT HISTORY OF
event which was shortly to follow, and a necessary revision
of the Constitution of the Mothers' Union seemed likely
to cause some sharp division of opinion among the members
The new President took the helm at a time when the
ship of the Mothers' Union was entering somewhat stormy
waters. Its passage through those waters and into various
new ports of call will be the subject of the next chapter
in its history.
THE MOTHERS' UNION 117
THE DOWAGER COUNTESS OF CHICHESTER.
THOSE who knew Lady Chichester realised how well
the activities of her previous life had qualified her
to preside over the affairs of what had now become
a national and world-wide Society. The daughter of the
first Lord Wolverton, and sister to the Hon. and Rev.
Edward Carr Glyn (afterwards Bishop of Peterborough),
the Hon. Alice Glyn had married in 1870 the Hon. and
Rev. Francis Pelham, and worked devotedly with him
among the poor in Lambeth, Yarmouth and other places ;
always taking a leading part in the work of many Church
Societies. When her husband became Earl of Chichester,
other fields of influence opened out before her — for, alas,
only too short a time. Lord and Lady Chichester had hardly
settled down in their lovely Sussex home when the future
President of the Mothers' Union was called upon to bear
the sorrows of bereavement and widowhood. Her eldest
son, the new Earl, came into occupation of Stanmer, and
the Dowager Countess threw her energies afresh into
religious and social work. She had much hesitation about
accepting the leadership of the Mothers' Union, but her
love for the Society overcame her own personal wishes
in the matter, and she shouldered the burden of responsi
bility with a good courage.
118 A SHORT HISTORY OF
Lady Chichester's first letter to all the Diocesan
Presidents shows how seriously she intended to devote
herself to her new sphere of work, and never once, during
her six years of office, did she spare herself in any way.
" Dear Fellow-Workers,
I wish to lose no time in expressing to you my deep appre
ciation of the honour you have done me in calling me to the
post of President of the Central Council of the Mothers' Union.
It has been absolutely unsought and unlocked for by me
and the sense of your confidence at such a time is the greatest
help to me.
No one can possibly fill the place of our venerated Foundress
and President ; her position with regard to the Mothers' Union
is unique and will always remain so. Many members of the
Central Council are more intimate and have a longer and
closer friendship with her than I can boast, but I yield to
none in my affection for her delightful personality or in my
admiration for the directness of aim, the steadfastness of
purpose and the skill of her guidance, by which this great
Society has grown up under her hands. Never again can any
President be what our Foundress and first President has been,
or live to see, as she has seen, the striking response to her idea
of a Mothers' Union. Never again can one individual bear
alone the weight and responsibility of the work which has
gathered such strength and expansion under her direction.
Your President may, through the co-operation of the
Central Council and Executive Committee and with the aid
of skilled help in the Office, endeavour to conduct the business,
guide the deliberations and regulate and assimilate the work,
but neither on myself nor on any other President can Mrs.
Sumner's mantle fall. All that has grown up with the years
under her care would weigh down — as a sudden burden —
anyone unpractised to the strain. Her mantle falls on the
Central Council and its Executive Committee and on the
President as their responsible officer. As such it will be my
earnest endeavour to serve to the best of my power, for a time,
the great cause of the Mothers' Unjon,
THE MOTHERS' UNION 119
I feel deeply the gravity of the crisis which this first break
in the long government of the Mothers' Union may cause.
I look to the support of the Central Council — to its wise judg
ment, calm courage and wide sympathies, to carry forward
the work of the Mothers' Union (with its simple organisation
and its sympathetic methods) in the spirit in which it was
The Revision of the Constitution at this particular moment
is an additional anxiety. The necessity for it is, however,
acknowledged. The extraordinary development and extension
of the Mothers' Union demands that with the lengthening of
its cords must come the strengthening of its stakes.
I know I may count at this juncture upon the prayers of
those who know me. Of those to whom I am now a stranger
I ask their indulgence and also their prayers, that the work
we all love may not be hindered at this time but may go on
from strength to strength.
I am, your obedient servant,
One of Lady Chichester's first duties was of a national
character, namely, to forward to Queen Alexandra, on
behalf of the whole Mothers' Union, an address of sympathy
on the lamented death of King Edward and to arrange
for a crown of flowers to be sent to Windsor on the day
of the Royal funeral.
Subjects of far-reaching importance faced the new
President as she took up her work. As has been already
recorded, the last year of Mrs. Sumner's administration
had been largely occupied with the subject of Divorce
and the attitude to be taken towards the Royal Commission
on Divorce then commencing its operations. At the
Council of December, 1909, The Lady Horatia Erskine
reported that Mrs. Sumner had written to the Archbishop
of York on the subject of a monster petition against the
122 A SHORT HISTORY OF
reply to the Chairman she stated that the Mothers' Union
would be in favour of the repeal of the Act of 1857 and urged
that relief should only be obtainable by way of ' Separation,'
which keeps the door open for reconciliation and which should
be made equally accessible to all classes, irrespective of their
means. The demand for increased facilities was a pandering
to the present-day idea that suffering and hardship were to be
deprecated and avoided at any cost.
" Mrs. Hubbard maintained that the national character
was raised by patient endurance of hardships and not by
lessening responsibilities, and emphasised the words of the
Marriage Vow 'for better, for worse,' etc., as contemplating
the necessary bearing of hardship. She held that observance
of the sanctity and indissolubility of marriage was the only
real method of preventing the demoralisation of Society, and
contended that as churchwomen they regarded marriage after
divorce as immoral.
" This point was driven home by one or two striking
instances of the way in which, among the upper classes, marriage
is being entered into as an experiment with the alternative of
divorce in view from the outset. It was obvious that the more
difficult it was to get out of a contract the more careful people
would be as to entering into it. Pressed as to the difficulty
of the unequal operation of the present law as between rich
and poor, Mrs. Hubbard replied that, while fully recognising
as a general principle that every individual has an equal right
to the protection of the law, the Mothers' Union believing
Divorce to be wrong in itself could not but protest against
any extension of it. She also stated her conviction that among
the respectable poor there was no desire for facilities for
*' Mrs. Francis Steinthal, Diocesan Secretary for the Mothers'
Union in the Diocese of Ripon, corroborated this statement,
and from ultimate knowledge of the working classes in large
towns was in a position to say that, for the most part, they
resent the idea that they wish for any extension of Divorce
facilities. She presented resolutions to this effect from over
85,000 working mothers. She had it on the authority of
many who were striving to bring up their families to respect
THE MOTHERS' UNION 123
marriage, that to cheapen Divorce would lead their sons and
daughters to enter upon marriage more lightly. They also
felt that it was an injustice to those who were struggling to
lead a good life that vice should be legalised. Mrs. Steinthal
said that to the sober, intelligent working men and women,
their marriage vows have a deep significance. It was also
their widespread desire that details of divorce cases should be
kept out of papers.
" Mrs. Church, speaking with a long experience of life
amongst the very poor in East London also affirmed that
there was no large desire for Divorce but that, on the contrary,
the poor despised the richer folk for the readiness with which
they sought it. The respectable working classes have a strong
conviction that husband and wife are one till death. Mrs.
Church also endorsed the statement made by the former
witness as to the degrading influence of the details published
of Divorce cases.
" The Mothers' Union must be congratulated on the firm
stand made by their representatives against any extension of
Divorce facilities, and we may feel sure that the constant
enunciation of their views on the sanctity of marriage, as
based on the teaching of the Church, will not be without
Here we must leave the Divorce question for the
moment and turn to other matters that claimed the atten
tion of the Central Council early in 1910.
In March Mr. Hill resigned his post as Treasurer and
the Rev. R. T. Gardner was appointed in his place. A
second room was taken by the Mothers' Union in the
Church House to serve as Mrs. Maude's private office
and as a Committee Room. The Staff by now had
increased by two Assistant Secretaries and they carried
on their work in the original office taken in 1889.
The Revision of the Constitution had already been
occupying the time of the Council for more than a year.
Mrs. Sumner had herself been the first to propose certain
alterations, but although her suggestions had l)een sent
124 A SHORT HISTORY OF
to each Diocesan Council for approval they were not
sufficiently supported to enable them to be carried into
effect. Gradually the need for revision became manifest to
all, and the difficulty then lay in the number and variety
of alterations proposed. No two dioceses were of quite
the same mind in the matter, and the wording of the
Members' Card proved a thorny problem, which produced
great variety of opinion.
Previous to the work of Revision it had become evident
that a further step would be advisable to consolidate the
position of the Mothers' Union and to protect its title,
publications and funds. Hitherto there had been no
Central Body in the Mothers' Union which could legally
hold or invest property, or take proceedings if its title or
its publications were pirated. Societies with very different
objects were springing up in various parts of the country,
using the same title, " The Mothers' Union," and
publishers, finding that to head a booklet " Mothers'
Union " gave it a ready sale were not always scrupulous
about gaining permission for the privilege.
Many difficulties and some confusion having arisen,
it was considered advisable to obtain legal opinion upon
the position of the Mothers' Union and its possessions,
investments, powers and publications. The legal advisors
of the Mothers' Union were consulted and they strongly
urged that the Mothers' Union should become an Incor
porated Society with a Charter of its own, thereby placing
its name, funds and publications under the protection of
the Board of Trade. The Archbishop of Canterbury
(Dr. Randall Davidson) also advised that this important
step should be taken.
It was necessary to postpone the December Council
of 1910 to February 1911, in order th$t a statement of
THE MOTHERS' UNION 125
facts might be prepared to lay before that assembly, and
although all members of the Council were not equally
ready for the new move, the principle of Incorporation
was then carried. The legal adviser addressed the Council
and made a clear statement of how matters stood. The
Council was then, he explained, merely a " Consultative
Committee," but by means of " Incorporation " it would
become a " Legal and Corporate Body."
The Revision of the Constitution now became even
more urgently necessary, and in June 1911 a special
Committee was appointed to carry through the under
taking. This Committee met for several consecutive
days in October 1911, and again in February 1912, to
draw up a Report to be presented to the Council in the
following June. It was at this juncture that Canon Nash,
Editor of Mothers in Council, proved his friendship for
the Mothers' Union by consenting to act as Chairman of
this Committee; a task of no little difficulty, which he
Before leaving the year 1911 there are a few other
points of interest to record. From the outset of her
leadership in the Mothers' Union, Lady Chichester carried
her conviction that the Mothers' Union must concern
itself with all that affected national purity of life into
the work of its Councils. The homes of the country
must ever be the sources whence purity in national life
must flow, and every endeavour made by the Church or
State to stem pollution must be aided by the largest and
most influential Society of women within the Church.
Therefore, late in 1910, a Bill to raise the age of Protection
for Boys and Girls (Mr. King's " Morality Bill ") engaged
the consideration of the Mothers' Union Central Council,
and the progress of every Criminal Law Amendment
Bill before the country has been watched and supported
by the Central Council ever since.
126 A SHORT HISTORY OF
In March 1911 a meeting was called by the Mothers'
Union to warn workers of the insidious danger of the
Mormon Campaign in England — a danger that is by no
means a thing of the past in 1921.
The Triennial Elections throughout the Mothers'
Union took place in 1911 ; Sir David and Lady Horatia
Erskine celebrated their Golden Wedding, and received
an address and gifts from the Central Council and from
the London Diocesan Council; representatives were
appointed by the Mothers' Union to serve on the Central
Councils of "Women's Church Work" and of the
" Parents' National Educational Union." Beautiful
Coronation Cards in honour of King George and Queen
Mary were issued by the Literature Committee — on
which figured prominently King George's fine words
that " The strength of a nation lies in the homes of its
The Winchester Buttress Fund, in memory of Bishop
Sumner, was started during this year, and a campaign to
oppose the Disestablishment of the Welsh Church was
inaugurated by a strong Ladies' Committee, presided over
by the Hon. Mrs. Gell and Mrs. Wilberforce.
THE MOTHERS' UNION 127
1912 — 1916.
Central President :
THE DOWAGER COUNTESS OF CHICHESTER.
THE year of 1912 opened in great activity. The
danger of Socialistic Sunday Schools engaged the
serious attention of the Council, and letters of
warning were sent to all the leading clergy. Pernicious
literature was then, as always, a problem with which
the Mothers' Union was bound to deal. The White Slave
Traffic caused a wave of horror and alarm to flow through
out the country, and the Mothers' Union took its part
in a Mass Meeting at the London Opera House to expose
the evil and to rouse the Government to action with regard
In December of this year, at the earnest instigation
of Lady Laura Ridding, a " Watch Committee " was
appointed by the Central Council " to watch and give
information and to advise the Council as to desirable
action with regard to legislative proposals in Parliament
concerning matters affecting the welfare of the mothers
of the nation."
The importance of the work of this Committee will
become apparent as this history proceeds. In December,
1912, Mr. Cecil Bovill succeeded Rev. R. J. Gardner as
Central Treasurer ; an Overseas Committee was appointed,
also a Central Committee for furthering work among
We now turn back to the two great matters of import
ance — the result of the Royal Commission on Divorce
128 A SHORT HISTORY OF
and the Revision of the Constitution of the Mothers'
It was not until November 1912 that Lady Chichester
and Mrs. Evelyn Hubbard were invited by Sir Lewis
Dibdin to a discussion upon the Minority Report of the
Divorce Commission then in the printer's hands. Sir Lewis
was most appreciative of all the trouble and energy that
had been spent on memorialising Mothers' Union members,
and begged this should never be regarded as of no avail.
He felt that the testimony borne by the Mothers' Union
had had a very perceptible influence upon the minds of
the Commissioners, and that a work of real importance
had been accomplished, not only for the Mothers' Union
but for the whole Church.
The Report of the Committee for the Revision of the
Constitution of the Mothers' Union was presented, as
arranged, at the June Council, 1912. The Council first
considered Part I, which dealt with Incorporation and
the adoption of the New Charter. This gave rise to con
siderable discussion, but, in the end, the adoption was
carried by 47 votes against 4, and the Mothers' Union
became an Incorporated Society. Part II was then dis
cussed, but as the wording of the proposed new Central
Card for Membership (for all members alike, the system
of two cards having been abolished) proved difficult, a
special Committee was appointed to go more fully into
On October 17th, 1912, the first General Meeting of
the newly incorporated Society took place for the purpose
of electing its " Incorporated Members." The Election
for the new Central Council followed, and every member
of the former Council was re-elected, all of them being,
of course, among the first 130 Incorporated Members.
The following day the Council met again and formally
adopted Parts II and III in the Revision Committee's
THE MOTHERS' UNION 129
Report, and accepted the suggestions as to the formation
of a Special Card Committee. Parts I, II and III of the
Revised and Incorporated Constitution were subsequently
published in the form of a little " grey " book, which
should be in every Mothers' Union worker's hands.
The Card of Membership and the Associate's Card
were eventually accepted in their new form with only five
dissentients, and a unanimous vote of thanks was passed
to Mrs. Sumner for the noble way in which she had met
and considered the alteration of her original Cards, and
for the unselfishness with which she had throughout the
Revision yielded to the wishes of others.
Those who had been anxious to see the Revision carried
into effect felt now, in October 1912, like the crew of a
vessel that had weathered many storms but had at last
arrived at a haven where they would be. A great deal of
the early opposition had melted away, and the serious
discussions on all sides upon the questions raised had
changed some early dissentients into strong supporters
of the scheme. Looking back to those days, leaders of the
Mothers' Union remain full of wonder at and gratitude
for the accomplishment of &o great a task. The loyal way
in which those who disapproved of the changes have
carried them out is worthy of all praise. Each year brings
fresh proof of the advantages of the revised organisation,
especially in the work of the Mothers' Union Overseas.
It is perhaps important to place on record here some of
the points that emerged when the Mothers' Union became
an Incorporated Society. First it had " legally " to define
itself as a Church Society ; nothing less definite than this was
ever the intention of its Foundress. The legal advisors informed
the Council that every " official " in a Church Society must
be a confirmed member of the Church of England or of a
Church in communion therewith, and that this rule applied
to all members of Committees, whether of a diocese, deanery
130 A SHORT HISTORY OF
This ruling necessitated correspondence with the Scottish
Mothers' Union and with the Bishops overseas, in consequence
of the " Bracket " clause, already referred to.* The Bishops
overseas not only agreed to the rescinding of the " Bracket "
clause but the great majority whole-heartedly welcomed the
alteration and some Bishops, who had not accepted the Mothers'
Union in their dioceses because of the clause were ready now
to do so.
The leaders in the Scottish Mothers' Union, however, felt
obliged to take a different line of action, when they were
made acquainted with the necessity for every member of the
Central Council becoming an Incorporated Member of the
Mothers' Union. They were not prepared to pledge themselves
only to send to Council as their representatives, confirmed
members of the Episcopal Church hi Scotland, and preferred
to continue the work of the Scottish Mothers' Union as a
separate organisation, closely affiliated to the parent Society
but not controlled by its Central governing body.
At the December Council of 1912 it was decided that
every home diocese must contribute to the Central Fund at
the rate of 2s. per branch, the minimum tribute from any
diocese being £5. Overseas dioceses were only required to
contribute £1 each.
In 1909 the Council had agreed to support a Missionary
worker in the Diocese of Tinnevelly, Southern India, and
Miss Rix, of the S.P.G., was appointed. In 1912 an
appeal was made that the Mothers' Union should also
support a worker — this time from the C.M.S. in the ad
joining Diocese of Travancore. Miss Lilian Davis was
chosen to carry on this work. Miss Rix has now retired
from active work, full of years and honour, and Miss
Herring is " carrying on " in her place. Miss Davis is
still the Mothers' Union Missionary worker in Travancore,
respected and beloved by many hundreds of friends and
supporters both at home and in Southern India.
In June 1913 the Central Council met for the first
* See page 109.
THE MOTHERS' UNION 131
time outside London, a suggestion having been received
from the Archbishop of York (Dr. Lang) that his ancient
city would like to receive the Annual Conference of the
Mothers' Union. By the kindness of His Grace, and of
Mrs. Pennyman, Diocesan President of the Mothers' Union
in York, and of her Council, a delightful week was spent,
and Yorkshire hostesses vied with each other in the enter
tainment of their fellow-members from all parts. Mrs.
Sumner, ever young, bore the strain of the many services
and meetings as well as any of her fellow-workers and
remained fresh and enthusiastic throughout all the week's
The Central Council met on June 5th in St. William's
College by the kind permission of the Archbishop. His Grace
in his Cathedral sermon spoke serious words upon this occasion
which it may be well to quote : — " It is my conviction, founded
on personal experience, that the Mothers' Union has a definite
and national work to do." Very gravely and unflinchingly
His Grace indicated the social problems which the Mothers'
Union must not ignore and especially " The avoidance of
sacrifice which resulted in a declining birth-rate." "The
time has come," His Grace added, " when the Mothers' Union
is entitled to look to the Bishops for guidance, and I hope if
they ask for it they will not ask in vain."
At this Council, held in York, two important developments
with regard to the literature of the Mothers' Union were
decided upon. (1) A Monthly Magazine for Workers was to
be launched in January 1914 — this is now known all over the
world as The Worker*? Paper — and (2) Mrs. George Chitty
was appointed Correspondent of the new Mothers' Union
Religious Education Scheme, in connection with which a
Book Supply was to be organised under the superintendence of
Mrs. Rowland Barker.
In December 1913 Miss Marcia Tucker was appointed
Editor of the Workers* Paper and two additional offices
were secured in the Church House, one to provide room
for the Library and Book Supply and for the use of the
132 A SHORT HISTORY OF
new Editor, the second for Mothers' Union literature
and publications and for the use of the Financial Clerk.
Mrs. F. S. Boas was at this time appointed Central Cor
respondent for Literature, a post which she still (1921)
most ably fills.
At the December Council the President reminded its
members of the Archbishop's counsel at York, and she
was authorised to send the following letter to every
Bishop at home and overseas : —
" My Lord Bishop,
On behalf of the Central Council of the Mothers' Union,
I beg to submit to your Lordship the following resolution
passed at the Central Council held at the Church House on
December 4th, 1913: —
' The Central Council of the Mothers' Union recognising
that certain present customs of limiting the family are
contrary to the Divine Law and hostile to the best interests
of the nation, appeals to the Bishops for guidance in dis
seminating the Christian principle which forbids such
avoidance of parenthood and for directions in educating
public opinion against this great evil.'
It is a formal outcome of long thought and prayer on the
need of action in opposition to the great and growing evil of
artificial restriction of families, an evil which affects and gives
rise to much perplexity among conscientious and devout
people. The first object of the Mothers' Union is to maintain
the reverent use of the married state, and therefore we accept
the obligation to help in resisting the increasing decline of the
English birth-rate, yet we consider that until some principle
of action is defined by the authority of the Church, and until
we are called by our leaders to co-operate, we cannot wisely
go forward with any suggestion for ameliorating this danger
to our national life.
Asking your gracious consideration of our appeal and waiting
your guidance in the endeavour to build up a healthy public
I beg to subscribe myself,
Your Lordship's obedient servant,
(Signed) A. CHICHESTER,
THE MOTHERS' UNION 133
As some of these letters had to go to the Antipodes
and to the remotest dioceses, some months elapsed before
answers were received, and they numbered forty-eight.
The Archbishops signified their approval. Many Bishops
did not feel able to return very definite replies, and some
said that this question had been and would be again
before a sub-committee of Bishops. One Bishop con
sidered it a matter of sufficient importance to go before
" The United Episcopate." It may therefore humbly
be claimed by the Mothers' Union that the appeal made
in 1913 — 1914 did most directly influence the Resolution
passed by " The United Episcopate " at the Lambeth
Conference of 1920.
In June, 1914, Working Women Delegates from four
dioceses attended the Conference Service at St. Paul's
Cathedral. This system of " Delegates " has now (1921)
ripened into a comprehensive " Representation Scheme,"
whereby every Diocesan Council may send three repre
sentatives to the Central Council — President, Secretary
and one Industrial Member.
The Literature Committee was busy this year with
the Inauguration of the Religious Education Scheme and
its Book Supply (so largely due to the initiative of
Mrs. Rowland Barker).
The Official Handbook was prepared this year for its first issue
in 1915 ; the Workers' Paper made its appearance ; leaflets on
Moral Instruction were provided by request ; and. in response
to an offer made by the " White Star " and " Cunard " Ship
ping Companies, literature for the use of emigrants on liners
was provided by the Mothers' Union. Miss Tucker found
herself obliged to resign her post as Editor of the Workers'
Paper in the Autumn of 1914, and Mrs. Beaumaris Woodward
was appointed Editor and still holds the office.
Support was given by the Central Council to the Bishop
134 A SHORT HISTORY OF
of London's new " Criminal Law Amendment Bill," and
" Resolutions " upon it were sent to both Houses of Parliament.
The work Overseas was well co-ordinated by giving
new powers to the Overseas Committee at Headquarters ;
Provincial Councils for Overseas countries were discussed
and their scope denned ; many new grants were made to
Bishops in Missionary dioceses for the work of the Mothers'
Union; a worker was sent out to Calgary, Western
Canada, for some months, and a beautiful banner was
received from native members in Madagascar, woven,
designed and worked by their own hands.
The opening months of the Great War called for much
new effort on the part of the Mothers' Union at
Headquarters. The increase of drinking among women,
the position of unmarried mothers, the formation of the
League of Honour for girls and young women and the
relationship of the Mothers' Union towards it, Women
Patrols, the Professional Classes' War Relief Council
and its Maternity Homes — all these matters required
close attention, and arrangements were made to enable
Mothers' Union members to take their part in the proposed
day of National Prayer and Intercession, January 3rd,
The outstanding events of this year within the Mothers'
Union were six in number. First, the Buttress Fund of
1911-12 had been so well supported by Mothers' Union
members that some £1200 had been gathered in — enough
to pay for two Buttresses with £250 to spare. This
£250 was handed over by Mrs. Sumner to the Central
Council for the promotion of Mothers' Union work
The second event was a sad one. Canon Nash, the
good friend of the Mothers' Union and Editor of Mothers
THE MOTHERS' UNION 135
in Council, died in June. The July number of Mothers
in Council was in print and Canon Vaughan, of Winchester,
kindly undertook to produce the October number, while
the question of a new Editor was under consideration.
Eventually it was decided to publish Mothers in Council
as well as the Workers' Paper from Headquarters and
Mrs. Woodward was appointed Editor of both magazines.
The third event was one which gave great satis
faction; namely, the fusion of the Chichester Diocesan
Mothers' Guild with the Mothers' Union, to the strengthen
ing of both organisations.
Fourthly, a " Speakers' Committee " was formed
and soon became a very important factor in the Central
Organisation of the Mothers' Union — the Hon. Mrs.
Gell and Mrs. Wyndham Knight Bruce being its efficient
and inspiring leaders
The fifth event was a Conference arranged between
members of the Mothers' Union and members of the
Headmistresses' Association with a view to co-operation
in religious training of girls, and the sixth point to notice
is the inauguration of the Pilgrim Movement among
women, which had its birth within the Mothers' Union at
one of its Executive Committees in the summer of 1914,
The Society of the Pilgrimage of Prayer was formed
and this soon had its own and separate organisation,
but it is a satisfaction to be able to reflect that it originated
within the Mothers' Union and that the first group of
Pilgrims were mainly Mothers' Union Workers, as is
still to a considerable extent the ca&e.
The Watch Committee during 1915 concerned itself
with many important matters and made its influence
widely felt. Mrs. John Clay, Mrs. Cecil Hook, Mrs. James
Gow are names which must never be forgotten in this
connection, while the mainspring of their inspiration was
found in the Central President's passionate enthusiasm
136 A SHORT HISTORY OF
in the cause of national purity. Criminal assaults on
children and indecent advertisements, postcards, etc.,
were attacked with courage, and no little good resulted,
although more remains to be accomplished.
Lady Horatia Erskine had a long and severe illness
in 1915, which unfortunately resulted in her being obliged
to discontinue her attendance at the Council and Com
mittee Meetings. Her interest in all that concerns the
Mothers' Union has, nevertheless, continued unabated,
and was fully shared by her husband, Sir David Erskine,
as long as his health permitted.
It came as a bolt from the blue when Lady Chichester
announced by letter in January 1916, that home claims
demanded her retirement from a post of so much responsi
bility as that of President of the Mothers' Union. Her
decision could only be accepted with the great regret of
every member of the Central Council and it was decided
to call an Emergency Meeting of the Council in February
1916, in order to receive formally Lady Chichester's
resignation and to elect her successor.
THE MOTHERS' UNION 137
Central President :
WHEN the Central Council met in February 1916,
for the sole purpose of appointing a new President,
its members with one accord elected Mrs. Ernest
Wilberforce, who at that time had been presiding over
the Mothers' Union in the Diocese of London for over
seven years. .
There was little necessity for the usual formalities
of so august a proceeding as a Presidential Election, for
no fewer than forty nominations had been received for
Mrs. Wilberforce and she was, therefore, unanimously
acclaimed Central President by a show of hands.
Mrs. Wilberforce's act of self-surrender in consenting
to stand for election at such a time as the second year
of the Great War was characteristic of the unsparing way
in which she ever subordinated personal inclination to
the call of duty. It was abundantly evident that she,
above all others, was uniquely fitted for the position of
leader in the Mothers' Union at that time. As Miss Emily
Connor — daughter of Canon Connor, Vicar of Newport,
Isle of Wight, and afterwards Dean of Windsor and
Domestic Chaplain to Queen Victoria — she was married
in 1874 to the Rev. Ernest Wilberforce, afterwards Bishop
first of Newcastle and then of Chichester, and at that
time Vicar of Seaforth, in Lancashire. Until the Bishop's
(Jeath, in 1907, Mrs, Wilberforce had joined heart and
138 A SHORT HISTORY OF
soul with him in his many-sided work, which often included
the championing of unpopular causes among people whose
enthusiasm it was hard to stir. It is good to be able to
record that their united work for the Mothers' Union
was always an inspiration and a joy to them both, and it
must be gratefully remembered that had not Bishop
Wilberforce (then of Newcastle) prevailed upon Mrs.
Sumner to address the Church Congress at Portsmouth
in 1885, there might never have been the Mothers' Union
as it is known and loved to-day.
In 1916 Mrs. Wilberforce, with her three sons and
two sons-in-law on active service, was full of anxiety
and home cares. But the call came and, as there was no
denying its insistence, she nobly consented to " carry on "
the work as Central President until the next Triennial
Elections, which were due in 1917.
The first Central Council presided over by the new
President was that of June 6th, 1916. The occasion is
never likely to be forgotten by those present as the news
of the loss of the Hampshire and the death of Lord
Kitchener came as an almost stunning blow in the midst
of the Council's deliberations.
Nevertheless important decisions were made on this
The following Message to the Women of France was
drafted by the Council and despatched from the Annual
Conference held the same week: —
*' WE, as representing Members of the Mothers' Union in
all parts of Great Britain and Ireland, Australia, New Zealand,
South Africa, Canada, India, West Indies, Western Equatorial
Africa, Uganda, Newfoundland and Bermuda, Gibraltar and
Cairo, also in China, Japan, Madagascar and the Falkland
Islands, desire to extend our sisterly sympathy to the Wives,
the Mothers and the Daughters of France. The suffering which
you have endured at the hands of a relentless foe have aroused
in our hearts the profoundest emotion of horror and indignation,
THE MOTHERS' UNION 189
" We, too, have suffered in this terrible war : we have,
like you, given of our best and bravest as a sacrifice in the
cause of Liberty and Justice. Unlike you, we have not, so
far, had the grief of seeing our country's soil profaned by the
foot of the invader. But the invincible courage with which
you have borne these misfortunes has enriched the world
through a patriotism which counts personal ease, safety, and
life itself as dust in the scale when weighed against the welfare
and the integrity of France, while you are setting an example
of fearless devotion to duty which calls forth our highest
admiration and deepest affectionate sympathy. This is the
spirit to ensure the victory which we pray by the mercy of
God may not be long delayed."
The important event of June 6th, 1916, as concerning
the whole future work of the Mothers' Union was the
inception of the Mary Sumner House Scheme. This
proposal did not come before the Council on this occasion
for discussion. The President called a special meeting
of Diocesan Presidents at the conclusion of the Council
Meeting to ask for their co-operation in a plan whereby
the world- wide work of the Mothers' Union might be still
further strengthened and co-ordinated at its Centre.
The main point in the scheme was the building and
endowment of a Central House which should be established
in Westminster as a Memorial of the life work of the
Foundress of the Mothers' Union and which should bear
her honoured name. Mrs. Sumner, who had been already
consulted, was deeply appreciative and ready to give the
whole matter her blessing and her prayers, though she
hardly expected at her advanced age to see the House
in being. The Diocesan Presidents not only expressed
general approval of the plan, but empowered the Executive
Committee to proceed with it, should occasion arise,
before the next meeting of the Council.
Circumstances hastened events to a degree never at
first anticipated. A great wave of desire to save and
140 A SHORT HISTORY OF
guard the child-life of the nation flooded the country
during the next two months. It found expression in the
cry: "Save the Children." The Press resounded with
it, and every organisation which directly or indirectly
felt itself responsible, rose to fresh effort and put forth
more power. It was not possible for the Mothers' Union
to stand aside and take no active part in this national
movement. Its leaders felt that the greatest Society for
mothers that the world had ever known must do its part
and on its own approved lines. Workers must be trained
by the Mothers' Union to help the mothers of the land to
become more capable of rearing and training a fine genera
tion of children in the faith and fear of God and
in the knowledge of His laws and the works of His
The Central President felt strongly that no longer
could the Mothers' Union contemplate its " House " as
a vision of the future, but its leaders must endeavour to
bring it without delay into the realm of solid fact. Many
people of influence, experience and business ability urged
the President to act promptly in the face of the great
opportunity that offered.
An appeal for £50,000 was therefore issued, and,
while it was hoped a large proportion of this would be
made up of small sums from the 400,000 members, yet it
was also thought advisable to interest a wider public by
the insertion of a letter in The Times and other papers.
A copy of the letter was sent to the Queen's lady-
in-waiting, who laid it before Her Majesty. A gracious
and encouraging reply was received, expressing Queen
Mary's high approval of the proposal and her hope that it
would be carried out with very great success.
A " Building Fund " was accordingly opened for the
44 Mary Sumner House," and on December 6th, 1916,
the Central Council unanimously ratified their approval,
already given informally, in the following Resolution;—
THE MOTHERS' UNION 141
" That the Mothers' Union shall acquire such premises
as funds permit for the ' Mary Sumner House,' which shall
be the Central Institute for Mothers' Union work, and shall
comprise the Mothers' Union Offices, a Chapel, Library, rooms
for Meetings, Lectures, and Model Classes.
** That the training of Workers for spiritual and physical
instruction shall be undertaken, and also the study of Child
Welfare and Mothercraft in co-operation with recognised Infant
It was agreed that the Triennial Elections, due this
year, must be postponed until the end of the War, and
all those who held office were asked to carry on their
work to the best of their ability. Led by the Central
President, all Presidents and Members of Committees,
etc., did endeavour most loyally to serve the Mothers'
Union during these trying years.
The Mothers' Union threw its influence into various
departments of war service and associated itself with
the National War Savings Committee, the Economy
Campaign organised by the Ministry of Food and with
every right and wise effort made in the cause of national
purity. Miss Soulsby attended, as an Associate and
representative of the Mothers' Union, the International
Congress of the World's Purity Federation, held at
Kentucky, U.S.A., in November 1917.
The increase of drinking among women called for
renewed effort in the cause of temperance and the Mothers'
Union appointed Mrs. Russell Walker to the post of
Central Correspondent for Temperance Work. Mrs.
Russell Walker has thrown herself into the work with
the enthusiasm and ability of her father, Bishop Ernest
Wilberforce, and has so increased it by good organisation
that there is likely to be, before long, a Mothers' Union
Temperance Correspondent in communication with
Mrs. Russell Walker in every diocese.
142 A SHORT HISTORY OF
Before leaving subjects connected with war conditions
in 1917, mention must be made of a protest sent by the
Mothers' Union to both Houses of Parliament with regard
to the use of the expression " unmarried wives." It was
pointed out that this wrong use of a word held sacred by
millions of men and women in the country was not only
offensive to married people but degrading to the institu
tion of marriage, even apart from its definitely religious
conception. It may be said here that a similar protest
is being made at the present time (November 1921), as
the expression is again in Government use in connexion
with out-of-work relief.
A Provisional Committee for Marriage Defence was
formed in October 1917, to arouse the country to the
danger of the Matrimonial Causes Bill, drafted by the
Divorce Law Reform Union, which made three years of
separation a ground for divorce.
This Bill was eventually withdrawn, but others of a
similar nature have been before both Houses of Parliament
and yet another is shortly to be expected. The Marriage
Defence Council is still active in opposing all destructive
legislation regarding marriage and although it has had
now, for some years, its own offices and scope of work,
it is satisfactory to contemplate that its first meetings
were convened by and held in the offices of the Mothers'
By the President's great wish, a Young Wives' Central
Committee was formed during this year to further the
work of the Mothers' Union among young mothers, and
young wives without children. A Conference of Young
Wives, arranged by this Committee, met, by the kind
invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury and
Mrs. Davidson, at Lambeth Palace in December 1917.
The Conference lasted three days and its result was the
formation within the Mothers' Union of the " Young
THE MOTHERS' UNION 143
Wives' Fellowship," under the leadership of Mrs. Lionel
Ford and Lady Fletcher.
The Fellowship soon attracted many to its meetings
and conferences who found themselves unable to accept
entirely the foundation principles of the Mothers' Union,
and in order to gather in this wider circle of young mother
hood the leaders of the Fellowship decided eventually to
work independently of the Mothers' Union while remaining
in close touch with its Council and Committees in every
diocese. This departure did not actually take place until
1920; the " Fellowship " is now known as the "Wives'
Fellowship," and its members are young married women
of education and leisure, whose problems include those
of the nursery and schoolroom. The original Young
Wives' Committee remains in the Mothers' Union to
carry on the work for which it was appointed, namely,
the furtherance of Mothers' Union ideals and principles
among young wives and mothers in every walk of life,
without distinction of circumstance.
It is noteworthy that during this same year the
sympathies of the Mothers' Union were extended to the
Girl Guide movement — in the hope that the Guide Com
panies of to-day were providing a wide and sound training
for the wives and mothers of to-morrow.
The outstanding event of 1917 need only be lightly
touched upon here as it appears in the first part of
this book. In June 1917 the temporary " Mary Sumner
House " was opened by H.R.H. Princess Christian and
dedicated by the Bishop of London. No. 8, Dean's Yard,
a house adjoining and belonging to the Church House,
became vacant unexpectedly and was offered to the
Mothers' Union on a short tenancy. The House has
proved an admirable temporary home for the offices of
the Mothers' Union and provides a Library, Lecture
Room, Committee Room and Chapel — all on a small
144 A SHORT HISTORY OF
scale and now fast becoming inadequate to the work
carried on there.
The Rev. Gordon Savile, Secretary to the Church of
England Men's Society, was invited to become Chaplain
to the Mary Sumner House. Celebrations of the Holy
Communion take place at regular intervals in the Chapel ;
prayers are read every day and a special service of devotion
and intercession with a short address is held at noon each
Friday. The Mothers' Union is indebted to Mr. Savile
and to many other clergy for kindness in taking the
Chapel services and giving addresses to workers.
Two Overseas matters of interest come into this
eventful year. A magazine for Australian members of
the Mothers' Union was started in Sydney Diocese, under
the able Editorship of Mrs. Pattinson. Mothers in
Australia soon gained a large circulation and it now finds
its way into every Australian diocese. Many members,
however, especially those not long from the home country,
still take the Mothers 9 Union Journal.
New Zealand, ever generous and loyal, sent from
Mothers' Union members a collection of £268 for the
relief of their suffering fellow-sisters in the devastated
areas of France and Serbia. This splendid gift, the result
of a self-denial effort, was expended in exactly the way
desired, and many a homeless mother with a child coming,
or in arms, was helped by the loving self-sacrifice of the
New Zealand women. Touching presents of money
came also from native and coloured members in South
Africa for fellow-members at home, to convey, in the
gift-language understood of the child -races, their sympathy
for white mothers in the bereavements of war. Thus
were members of the Mothers' Union being daily more
closely enfolded together in the robe woven of sympathy,
and jewelled with loving thoughts and prayers.
THE MOTHERS' UNION 145
Central President :
THE June Council opened in sorrow. The Central
President was unable to be present owing to the
sudden death, the result of a flying accident, of
her son, Captain William Wilberforce, M.C., The Hon. Mrs.
Evelyn Hubbard (Vice -President) presided, and the
Council stood in silent prayer for their President and
her family in their great bereavement. A cross of flowers
was sent to the funeral, which was to take place on the
next day, as an expression of their deep sympathy.
The Naval Division of the Mothers' Union, organised
somewhat on the lines of the Army Division, was in
augurated this year, and the work made a good start at
Chatham. The hope that a special branch for the wives
of sailors will be established in each naval seaport town
seems now likely to be fulfilled. During the war the
matter was not easy to organise.
The Army Division during the w r ar lost many members
owing to the soldiers' wives being dispersed all over the
country while the men were at the front. Both the Army
and the Naval Division are however re-organising hope
fully at the present time.
In 1918, during a tour made in Devon and Cornwall,
the Central President was much impressed with the
need felt by Branch workers, far from the Centre, for
help in organising their work. Several " Organising
146 A SHORT HISTORY OF
Workers " were, therefore, appointed by the Central
Council to travel when invited in the dioceses in order
to meet Presiding and Enrolling Members and re-invigorate
work that had waned or lapsed through lack of encourage
ment. Six experienced " Organisers " were soon making
tours and were greatly appreciated, especially in country
places. This branch of work still continues, and more
use might be made of the excellent help that is at the
disposal of the dioceses.
It was during Mrs. Wilberforce's administration that
the last two home Diocesan Councils to accept the revised
Constitution became affiliated to the Incorporated Mothers'
Union, and so, in 1918, to the great satisfaction of the
Central Council, the home organisation thus became
A third Missionary Worker Overseas was adopted in
1918 by the Mothers' Union, in addition to those in
Tinnevelly and Travancore. Miss Gibson, of the C.E.Z.M.S.,
was appointed to work specially for the Mothers' Union
in the Punjab (Lahore Diocese). Miss Gibson endeared
herself and her work to many hundreds of Mothers'
Union members during her furlough in England — a time
that was much prolonged owing, unfortunately, to her
illness. Meanwhile the C.E.Z.M.S. suggested that the
support of the Mothers' Union should be transferred to a
Missionary in China, and Miss Loader is now its third
worker in the Mission Field. Miss Loader has had long
experience in Mothers' Union work among the Christian
Chinese women in Fuh-Kien Diocese, and is greatly
beloved by them. Miss Gibson has at last (1921) been
able to return to Lahore Diocese, and she will work for
the Mothers' Union on all possible occasions, although
no longer definitely a M.U. Missionary Worker.
In December, 1918, the Mothers' Union undertook
an enquiry among its members to collect evidence and
THE MOTHERS' UNION 147
opinions upon the question of the Declining Birth Rate,
its causes and remedies, thereby desiring to draw out a
clear view of that which is intended in the first and second
clauses of the Preface to the Office for the Solemnization
of Matrimony, and to help in forming a worthy public
opinion on the right and wrong use of the marriage state.
It was a matter of great regret to the whole Mothers'
Union that Lady Jenkyns, who had founded and edited
for thirty-one years the Mothers' Union Journal, felt
obliged to resign her work. As the President truly said,
it was impossible to overestimate Lady Jenkyns' work
for the Mothers' Union — " possibly only second in value
to that of Mrs. Sumner herself." A new editor had to be
found, equal to the management, both literary and
financial, of a large undertaking. Mrs. Carruthers, an
experienced editor of some standing, a Mothers' Union
Speaker and a member of its Literature Committee, was
All three Magazines were handed over to the S.P.C.K.
this year for publication, but, in 1921, it was found more
practical to publish the Workers' Paper from the Central
Office and to circulate it from there.
The subject of the Declining Birth Rate again came
before the Council, and in June, 1919, the following
principle was agreed to: —
" That as for all normal married persons it is a duty and
an honour to accept God's gift of a family, we hold
that a selfish limitation of children is wrong, and that
all artificial checks to conception are against the law
of nature and of God."
The Central President communicated with the Arch
bishops and Diocesan Bishops at home and overseas in
148 A SHORT HISTORY OF
April, 1919, «nd again in February, 1920, with the hope
that further consideration to the principle at issue might
be given at the Lambeth Conference in 1920.
The splendid and self-sacrificing work of Mrs. John
Clay in connexion with this subject of Birth Control
must never be forgotten. The tribute paid to that work
by one of the Bishops, at the time of the Lambeth Con
ference (1920), may well be recorded here; namely, that
not only had Mrs. Clay's efforts borne fruit within the
Mothers' Union but that the whole Church might well
acknowledge to her a debt of gratitude.
On February 15th, 1919, the Queen, accompanied by
the Princess Mary, most graciously paid a visit to the
Mary Sumner House. The notice given to the Central
President was very short, but as many members of the
Central Council as could be communicated with in the
time were present to meet Her Majesty and the Princess.
The Queen showed the greatest interest in all that she
saw, and examined the appointments of the Chapel,
particularly the banner woven, designed and worked by
the native members in Madagascar. The Literature
and Overseas Departments specially held the attention
of Her Majesty, and the kind words spoken to each member
of the Staff by the Queen and the Princess will never be
forgotten. Her Majesty and the Princess each signed her
photograph and the visitors' book, and shortly afterwards
a parcel of sixteen books for children arrived as a gift from
the Queen to the Library,
The elections, postponed from 1917, took place in
June 1919. Mrs. Randall Davidson announced at the
Central Council Meeting that everything possible had
been dene to find a worthy successor to Mrs. Wilberforce,
who was greatly in need of rest, but no one felt able to
undertake the arduous office of Central President. Once
more Mrs. Wilberforce most generously consented to
THE MOTHERS' UNION 149
put aside her own inclinations and to remain as Central
President for another year.
Now that the years of war had ended it seemed the
moment for the Mothers' Union to look into its innermost
workings, and to revive its membership by a missionary
effort which would reach every individual member. The
movement took shape as the " Campaign for Deepening
Spiritual Life within the Mothers' Union." During the
autumn and winter of 1919 and the spring of 1920, week
by week, each Branch called itself to account. Special
services and prayer meetings were arranged and in most
cases an appointed worker — sometimes two or more —
visited the branches and conducted a mission, calling
upon every member in her own home.
The effect of the Campaign is abundantly recognised
though it can hardly be expressed in words. In quantity
membership decreased, utterly unresponsive members or
those whose membership was on paper only being removed
from the Branch rolls, but the gain in quality was im
measurable. Many lapsed branches revived, numbers of
new branches were started, weak members were strength
ened and new developments of the spiritual side of
Mothers' Union work came into being. A solemn
" Renewal of Membership " generally concluded each
" Campaign Week," and many members for the
first time were helped to understand the principles to
which they had pledged their adherence, and — in the
words of the Archbishop of Canterbury — to make the
presence of the Lord Jesus Christ a " glowing reality "
in their homes. After the earthquake and fire of war —
the " still small voice." Such was the " Campaign." Its
results rest with God.
The Finances of the Mothers' Union had during the
years of War been a cause of anxiety, and had the War
continued another year it is probable that almost insur-
150 A SHORT HISTORY OF
mountable difficulties would have presented themselves.
The increased cost of paper, publishing and labour was
reducing the profits on the magazines and publications
to a vanishing point, and on these profits the Society
depended as its main source of income. It was plain at
last that a more stable source of income must be found.
The Council was asked to pass a scheme of finance whereby
every member in the Mothers' Union should be required
to pay a yearly tribute of sixpence, one penny of which
should be sent to the Central Fund. This penny per head
per member was to supersede the existing Diocesan Tribute
of 2s. per Branch.
The scheme was passed and came into operation in
January 1920. Although it was hardly expected to work
entirely smoothly during the first year, the result exceeded
all expectations and almost reached the estimated possible
amount. Members proved themselves not only willing
but keenly desirous of sharing in the support of their
" Union," and the fivepence per head left in each diocese
is helping the diocesan and branch funds to meet their
many claims. No longer is there any cleavage in the
Mothers' Union between " Subscribing " and " Non-
subscribing " Members. Every one subscribes to the
extent of sixpence a year, and those who have received
ability to do more, give of their means with readiness.
The " Tribute " is gradually becoming recognised as yet
another unifying force in the Mothers' Union — one not
unworthy to be ranked with the spirit of fellowship
evoked by the War and the influence of the Spiritual
The last Council presided over by Mrs. Wilberforce
was that of June 22nd, 1920, and the Dowager Countess
of Chichester, on behalf of the Council, expressed the
gratitude and appreciation extended by all to the President,
THE MOTHERS' UNION 151
who had so admirably directed the Mothers' Union during
the past four and a half exceptionally difficult years.
Mrs. Wilberforce was asked to accept two small
offerings as a token of affection and esteem — a miniature
of her son, the late Captain William Wilberforce, and a
little fitted dressing-case. The President responded in
a moving speech, thanking all who had worked with her
for their loyal support and affection, and she commended
to them the unfinished work to which the Mothers' Union
had put its hand — the permanent " Mary Sumner House."
The President also announced that Mrs. Hubert Barclay,
Diocesan President of St. Albans, had been elected to
succeed her and would take office in the autumn.
Mrs. Wilberforce was asked to become a Vice-President,
as was also the Dowager Marchioness of Dufferin and
Ava on her retirement as General President for the
Mothers' Union in Ireland.
A scheme for wider representation was passed at this
Council — which operates from the humble Branch Com
mittee throughout the various Deanery Committees and
Diocesan Councils up to the Central Council itself. The
effect on the latter has been to increase its numbers, as
each diocese may now have three Representatives, the
President, Diocesan Secretary and an Industrial Member.*
Incorporated Members may now send Twenty-five Elected
Members to the Council and may vote for them, at the
time of election, by post if unable to be present at the
General Meeting that year.
On June 24th, 1920, the second Mass Meeting of the
Mothers' Union was held in the Albert Hall, Kensington.
The great building was filled with members and gay
with colour, each branch bringing its own small banner
and many dioceses a large and handsome standard. A
protest against any further facilities for divorce being
recognised by Parliament was sent by the ten thousand
* See page 133.
152 A SHORT HISTORY OF
women present. Mrs. Wilberforce preoided and the
Bishops of St. Albans (Dr. Michael Furse) and i;f Willochra
(Dr. Gilbert White) addressed the Meeting. Madame
Carrie Tubb brought tears to the eyes of most women
present by her exquisite singing of " Home Sweet Home."
A choir of 1000 voices (all M.TJ. members) had been trained
by the Hon. Mrs. Cell, and the rendering of the hymns
and choruses was most effective.
Another far-reaching event of this summer was the
Conference of Overseas Workers, held in July. For one
week over 100 workers in the Mothers' Union from all
parts of the world, assembled together at a house in
London (kindly lent for the occasion) for devotion and
conference. The Lambeth Conference had brought many
Bishops' wives from Overseas to England, who were
Diocesan Presidents in their own sphere of work. Many
other Overseas workers came specially to England for
this Mothers' Union Conference and the occasion was
It was a matter of regret that, owing to illness,
Mrs. Wilberforce could only meet the delegates on the
first and last day of the five. Mrs. Montgomery, the
Countess of Harrowby, and Mrs. Harmer were all, in turn,
admirable in the Chair, and Mrs. Hubert Barclay, so
soon to take office as Central President, attended every
meeting and endeavoured to become personally acquainted
with each delegate. The Rev. M. Conran. S.S.J., acted
as Chaplain of the Conference and conducted the Quiet
Day which opened its proceedings. The keen discussions
emphasised the fact that the needs and problems of
motherhood are fundamentally the same all over the
wide world, and for that reason the Mothers' Union is
able to make its message understood by wives and mothers
of every age and rank and race and clime.
THE MOTHERS' UNION 158
Central President :
MRS. HUBERT BARCLAY.
MRS. HUBERT BARCLAY'S first appointment in
the Mothers' Union was that of Enrolling Member
for the parish of Essendon, in Hertfordshire.
Her power as a speaker and her grasp of organisation
soon gained her a place on the Mothers' Union Council
in St. Albans Diocese and in 1919 she became its President.
During the War Mrs. Barclay had visited many of
the great Y.M.C.A. Camps in the South of England and
addressed large meetings of soldiers. Her gifts of leader
ship are largely inherited from her father, Colonel Henry
Smith Daniell, who fought in the Indian Mutiny and
who, later on, was Chief of the Bombay Police and after
wards, for many years, Chief Constable for Hertfordshire.
Miss Edith Noel Daniell married in 1890 Hubert
Frederick Barclay, a direct descendant of Robert Barclay,
of Urie Castle, Aberdeenshire, the famous apologist for
the Friends in the time of Charles II. The second of
Colonel and Mrs. Hubert Barclay's three sons fell in the
Great War; thus was the present Central President as
well as her two predecessors given a direct entry into
the heart of bereaved motherhood throughout the Empire.
To Mrs. Barclay's talent as an artist the 1922 Almanac
will testify; the kindness which inspired her to devote
several weeks to patient work in Westminster Abbey,
154 A SHORT HISTORY OF
in order that the mothers of unknown heroes should have
their own picture of the Warrior's Grave, will be as uni
versally appreciated as the picture itself.
The new Central President's first Council was that of
December 1st and 2nd, 1920. Its chief feature was the
issue of a statement clearly defining the " Sanctity of
Marriage," as understood by the Mothers' Union ever
since its foundation as a Church Society.
Mrs. Gore Browne, speaking for her mother, Mrs.
Sumner, testified that the Foundress always understood
the word " Sanctity " to include indissolubility.
In view of the more varied interpretations of the
present day the Council passed a resolution, defining the
meaning of the First Object in the following words : —
" To uphold the sanctity of marriage as a life-long and
indissoluble union, for better for worse, of one man and
one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side."
The June Conference Week at Chester is so fresh a
memory to all privileged to enjoy its varied programme
that it is only necessary to record anew with gratitude
and deep appreciation the kindness of the Bishop and
the Dean, the perfection of the arrangements made by
the Chester Diocesan Council and by its President,
Mrs. W. H. Johnson, and the abounding hospitality that
Chester bestowed on the four hundred invaders within
On June 26th, the occasion of their diamond wedding,
Sir David and Lady Horatia Erskine were sent a telegram
conveying the hearty congratulations of the Central
Council. A few months later, on September 7th, Sir
David Erskine, always a faithful friend of the Mothers'
Union, passed into the Life Beyond.
MOTHERS' UNION 155
As the events surrounding another Passing, that of the
beloved Foundress, have been fully and lovingly described
in the first part of this book, it only remains for the
History to record that Mrs. Sumner was called to her
rest on August llth, 1921, and that the funeral took
place at Winchester on August 15th.
Many important matters are engaging the attention
of the Mothers' Union at the present time, all of which
call for earnest thought and prayer, to be followed by
wise, concerted action. The danger to young people
lurking in the modern cinema can only be overcome by
the establishment of better class picture houses with
attractive films of wholesome character, and by legislation
which will protect lads and girls from suggestive and
low-toned picture stories, and from conditions within
the palaces which make for unseemly behaviour.
A still more hideous danger to " Christ's little ones "
is the teriible and blasphemous teaching given in anti-
Christian Sunday Schools. The Campaign against this
evil in our midst can only be fought under the direction
of the Spirit of " wisdom, counsel and ghostly strength" —
for its insidiousness makes an open attack upon it well-
nigh impossible. All that will be required of the Mothers'
Union during 1922 cannot be known beforehand, but it is
fully recognised by the Central Council that its forces
must be rallied to save Christ's fold from the wolves
that are packing to destroy first the lambs and then the
Yet another Mass Meeting for Mothers was held in
London during the autumn of 1921 — this time in the
Queen's Hall, Langham Place. Addresses were given on
Couitship, Marriage and Motherhood, and each subject
was handled quite fearlessly, yet raised to a height which
touched the sublime.
In an age when a low ideal and much false teaching
156 THE MOTHERS' UNION
with regard to sex relationship is being put forth in every
section of the community as part of a gospel of individual
ism, it behoves the Mothers' Union to offer a clear state
ment of the purposes of God for mankind, as revealed
in the Bible and in the history of the human race, to the
parents of to-day and of to-morrow.
And so — in days full of grievous anxiety but never
theless of glorious hope and boundless opportunities —
these opening chapters of the Historjr of the Mothers'
Union are brought to an end. That history is but begun.
In words recently spoken by the present Central President :
" We will go forward as a Union in the highest and best
meaning of that word — in unity of prayer, unity of service,
unity of sympathy, and unity of heart -felt enthusiasm —
viewing every problem of the present and future in the
light of Christ's teaching — believing, humbly but con
fidently, that God has still a great work for us to do —
work for which we must ever be ready and prepared, as
the instrument in His hand to be used for His purpose."
BV MARY SUMMER, HER LIFE
4445 AND WORK